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Serial versus concurrent multitasking: from lab to life

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... Multitasking is an important everyday ability (for a recent overview see the editorial of a special issue by Poljac, Kiesel, Koch, & Müller, 2018) and a broad construct that can be conceptualized and assessed in various ways (e.g., Künzell et al., 2018). Burgess (2015) argues that there are at least two distinct types of multitasking, one in which two or more tasks are carried out simultaneously such as in dual task paradigms, termed "concurrent multitasking" (originally coined by Salvucci & Taatgen, 2008), and another type in which two or more tasks are carried out sequentially, termed "serial multitasking". More specifically, in serial multitasking participants alternate between different tasks that vary in terms of priority, difficulty, and duration. ...
... More specifically, in serial multitasking participants alternate between different tasks that vary in terms of priority, difficulty, and duration. Moreover, according to Burgess (2015), this alternation is interleaved. That is, the tasks cannot be accomplished in pure sequence but one needs to shift "back and forth" between them. ...
... Most likely, the gender stereotype will have arisen from observing everyday situations and, thus, it is more likely to find these sex differences in everyday scenarios. Second, everyday scenarios typically involve serial multitasking (for review Burgess, 2015) and there is a clearly defined set of criteria for such scenarios (Burgess, 2000(Burgess, , 2015: they comprise (1) multiple, discrete tasks that (2) are interleaved but (3) carried out one at a time. (4) Unforeseen interruptions and problems occur and (5) there is no direct signal indicating when it is time to return to an already running task (delayed intentions). ...
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According to popular beliefs and anecdotes, females best males when handling multiple tasks at the same time. However, there is relatively little empirical evidence as to whether there truly is a sex difference in multitasking and the few available studies yield inconsistent findings. We present data from a paradigm that was specifically designed to test multitasking abilities in an everyday scenario, the computerized meeting preparation task (CMPT), which requires participants to prepare a room for a meeting and handling various tasks and distractors in the process. Eighty-two males and 66 females with a wide age range (18-60 years) and a wide educational background completed the CMPT. Results revealed that none of the multitasking measures (accuracy, total time, total distance covered by the avatar, a prospective memory score, and a distractor management score) showed any sex differences. All effect sizes were d ≤ 0.18 and thus not even considered "small" by conventional standards. The findings are in line with other studies that found no or only small gender differences in everyday multitasking abilities. However, there is still too little data available to conclude if, and in which multitasking paradigms, gender differences arise.
... In these cases, participants take part in rigidly constructed experimental procedures that do not allow interaction between the participants (Pinti et al., 2018). This lack of interaction between participants is particularly limiting in the case of the survey on parenting because the highly controlled settings do not allow for the reproduction of the typical relational exchanges that occur daily between caregiver and child (Burgess, 2015). The lack of interaction thus limits the research hypotheses that may be formulated and also raises question about the ecological validity of the results obtained (Burgess et al., 2006;Pinti et al., 2018). ...
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The quality of the relationship between caregiver and child has long‐term effects on the cognitive and socio‐emotional development of children. A process involved in human parenting is the bio‐behavioural synchrony that occurs between the partners in the relationship during interaction. Through interaction, bio‐behavioural synchronicity allows the adaptation of the physiological systems of the parent to those of the child, promotes the positive development and modelling of the child’s social brain. The role of bio‐behavioural synchrony in building social bonds could be investigated using functional near‐infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). In this paper we have (a) highlighted the importance of the quality of the caregiver‐child relationship for the child’s cognitive and socio‐emotional development, as well as the relevance of infantile stimuli in the activation of parenting behaviour, (b) discussed the tools used in the study of the neurophysiological substrates of the parental response, (c) proposed fNIRS as a particularly suitable tool for the study of parental responses, (d) underlined the need for a multi‐systemic psychobiological approach to understand the mechanisms that regulate caregiver‐child interactions and their bio‐behavioural synchrony. We propose to adopt a multi‐system psychobiological approach to the study of parental behaviour and social interaction.
... Contract planning is concerned with identifying and executing the structure, format and content of the contracting mechanism the organization needs with their partners (Burgess & White, 2015). Good contract planning formalizes relations between parties within a robust legal framework, but is much more besides; it is an opportunity to define the arrangements that encompass every aspect of what outcomes the organization wants from the supplier and how it wants the relationship to work (Ballou, 2017). ...
... The tasks adopted in several other domains were also meant to serve the same purpose, i.e., providing participants with a highly ecologically valid task environment. These domains include frontal lesions (Shallice et al., 1996;Shallice and Burgess, 1991), executive function , and multiple tasking (Burgess, 2000(Burgess, , 2019. Furthermore, although referring to executive function studies, Burgess (1997) has elaborated on the unique characteristics of tasks of this kind, which, the authors argued, are generalizable to the MVKT. ...
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We presented a Virtual Reality (VR)-based functional task with three executive functional load levels and examined some aspects of this task using performance data of young healthy adults. We named the task the modified version of kitchen test (MVKT) from the Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool (VRFCAT). A sample of 42 participants (age M = 20.95, SD = 2.66; 69.05% female; 85.71% right handedness) completed MVKT and took a questionnaire regarding user experience and strategy use. First, we have evidence for good user experience. Chunking, visual and verbal strategies were reported to be used by most participants. Second, working memory capacity cannot fully predict performance in young healthy adults. This lack of meaningful relationship between the two was consistent across all three levels. Finally, we investigated the impact of executive functional load on the task performance. Quantitative analysis showed that performance declined as the load increased. Process analysis demonstrated that executive functional load impacted the sequential patterns of process, supporting the notion that people completed the task by proceeding down different paths to performance. We hope that by presenting our work, we have highlighted the unique characteristics of VR-based functional assessment to researchers who are interested in these methods.
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One of the great successes of functional neuroimaging as a method has been to generate theories concerning the cognitive functions supported by rostral PFC (approximating Brodmann Area 10). But these ideas have developed largely without regard to the existing data available from human lesion studies, which should have provided valuable constraints on theorising. These data are outlined here, augmented by a meta-analysis of the work of Donald T. Stuss and colleagues. Rostral PFC lesions do not typically cause widespread cognitive deficits. But they often do cause marked deficits in a range of cognitive abilities which have hitherto received little attention from cognitive scientists. These include (but are not restricted to) prospective memory, multitasking, "metacognitive" control, and social behaviour. It is argued that functional neuroimaging practitioners of functional neuroimaging might wish to consider these data when interpreting, post-hoc, findings of haemodynamic change in rostral PFC.
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Multitasking (MT) constitutes engaging in two or more cognitive activities at the same time. MT-training improves performance on untrained MT tasks and alters the functional activity of the brain during MT. However, the effects of MT-training on neural mechanisms beyond MT-related functions are not known. We investigated the effects of 4 weeks of MT-training on regional gray matter volume (rGMV) and functional connectivity during rest (resting-FC) in young human adults. MT-training was associated with increased rGMV in three prefrontal cortical regions (left lateral rostral prefrontal cortex (PFC), dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC), and left inferior frontal junction), the left posterior parietal cortex, and the left temporal and lateral occipital areas as well as decreased resting-FC between the right DLPFC and an anatomical cluster around the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Our findings suggest that participation in MT-training is as a whole associated with task-irrelevant plasticity (i.e., neural changes are not limited to certain specific task conditions) in regions and the network that are assumed to play roles in MT as well as diverse higher-order cognitive functions. We could not dissociate the effects of each task component and the diverse cognitive processes involved in MT because of the nature of the study, and these remain to be investigated. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Prospective memory is the ability to remember to execute future intentions and thoughts. It is probably the newest established field of memory research. We provide a selective review of work conducted in the last two decades with respect to the following issues: (1) the different types and characteristics of prospective tasks, (2) the theoretical models of the cognitive processes support-ing prospective memory, (3) prospective memory performance in younger and older adults and (4) the findings from neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies. The findings indicate an extraordinarily fast progress in our under-standing of the behaviour and the brain regions that are involved in this impor-tant ability, and suggest at least two possible emerging areas of enquiry for future research: a link with the closely related field of prospection (i.e., think-ing about the future), and "expectation prospective memory" (triggering of behaviour in the absence of awareness depending on contingencies learnt from the environment). Prospective memory (PM) is commonly defined as the set of abilities that are used when remembering to perform an intended action, or thought, at some future point (Brandimonte, Einstein, & McDaniel, 1996). This type of mem-ory is in constant use in everyday life in order to fulfil intentions ranging from the simple, such as remembering to take out the garbage when leaving home, to the more complex, such as remembering to organise a surprise party for a friend's birthday. This ability is critical to competent human functioning, so much so that previous studies have suggested that PM problems are the most frequent memory failures in everyday life (Kliegel & Martin, 2003). Rela-tively little experimental and theoretical investigation was conducted on this topic until the last 15 years. However, since then there has been a remarkable increase in number of research studies that have considered PM.
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In goal neglect, a person ignores some task requirement though being able to describe it. Goal neglect is closely related to general intelligence or C. Spearman's (1904) g (J. Duncan, H. Emslie, P. Williams, R. Johnson, & C. Freer, 1996). The authors tested the role of task complexity in neglect and the hypothesis that different task components in some sense compete for attention. In contrast to many kinds of attentional limits, increasing the real-time demands of one task component does not promote neglect of another. Neither does neglect depend on preparation for different possible events in a block of trials. Instead, the key factor is complexity in the whole body of knowledge specified in task instructions. The authors suggest that as novel activity is constructed, relevant facts, rules, and requirements must be organized into a "task model." As this model increases in complexity, different task components compete for representation, and vulnerable components may be lost. Construction of effective task models is closely linked to g.
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We define the problem addressed at the eighteenth Attention and Performance symposium as that of explaining how voluntary control is exerted over the organization and activation of cognitive processes in accordance with current goals, without appealing to an all-powerful but ill-defined " executive" or controlling "homunculus." We provide background to the issues and approaches represented in the seven parts of the volume and review each chapter, mentioning also some other contributions made at the symposium. We identify themes and controversies that recur through the volume: the multiplicity of control functions that must be invoked to explain performance even of simple tasks, the limits of endogenous control in interaction with exogenous influences and habits, the emergence of control through top-down "sculpting" of reflexive procedures, the debate between structural and strategic accounts of capacity limits, the roles of inhibition and working memory, the fertile interactions between functional and neural levels of analysis. We identify important control issues omitted from the symposium. We argue that progress is at last being made in banishing - or fractionating - the control homunculus.
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Experimental and statistical methods for examining individual differences in dual-task performance and time-sharing ability are reviewed and criticized. Previous data and analysis procedures are generally inadequate to evaluate a time-sharing ability. Errors resulting from unsophisticated use of correlational and factor analytic procedures are described. Four previous studies that concern time-sharing are considered in detail. The nature of task selection, scoring methods, and control of practice and reliability issues are discussed. Based on a reanalysis of available data, a time-sharing ability is not rejected. Simulation, incorporation of theory in planning models, and crucial tests of the hypotheses are proposed as methods for assessing the time-sharing ability.
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Investigated whether a distinct time-sharing factor is involved in the performance of complex tasks. Three complex tasks were used, each of which consisted of 2 simple component tasks. On each of 5 consecutive days, 51 right-handed female undergraduates performed all these tasks, both complex and simple, twice: once singly and once concurrently with an additional loading task. The performances of the 9 tasks (i.e., 3 complex and 6 simple) recorded under both conditions were intercorrelated and factor analyzed. Four factors emerged, one of which was a Time-Sharing factor. It is concluded that the Time-Sharing factor was the expression of individual differences in Ss' ability to apply an efficient strategy in responding to complex tasks. (French, German & Japanese abstracts) (11 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Performance on two different task combinations was examined for evidence that timesharing skills are learned with practice and can transfer between task combinations. One combination consisted of two discrete informaion processing tasks, a short-term memory task and a classification task; the other consisted of two identical one-dimensional compensatory tracking tasks. Three groups of 16 subjects were employed in the experiment. The first received dual-task training on both combinations; the second received single-task training on the discrete-task combination and dual-task training on the tracking combination; the third received dual-task training on the tracking combination only. Evidence for distinct timesharing skills was found in both combinations using a new technique designed to separate improvements in timesharing skills from improvements in single-task performance. Transfer of timesharing skills also was found. Several fine-grained analyses performed on the data from the discrete task combination and a Control Theory Analysis of the tracking data indicated that skills in parallel processing were learned in each combination and transferred between them.
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A role for rostral prefrontal cortex (BA10) has been proposed in multitasking, in particular, the selection and maintenance of higher order internal goals while other sub-goals are being performed. BA10 has also been implicated in the ability to infer someone else's feelings and thoughts, often referred to as theory of mind. While most of the data to support these views come from functional neuroimaging studies, lesion studies are scant. In the present study, we compared the performance of a group of frontal patients whose lesions involved BA10, a group of frontal patients whose lesions did not affect this area (nonBA10), and a group of healthy controls on tests requiring multitasking and complex theory of mind judgments. Only the group with lesions involving BA10 showed deficits on multitasking and theory of mind tasks when compared with control subjects. NonBA10 patients performed more poorly than controls on an executive function screening tool, particularly on measures of response inhibition and abstract reasoning, suggesting that theory of mind and multitasking deficits following lesions to BA10 cannot be explained by a general worsening of executive function. In addition, we searched for correlations between performance and volume of damage within different subregions of BA10. Significant correlations were found between multitasking performance and volume of damage in right lateral BA10, and between theory of mind and total BA10 lesion volume. These findings stress the potential pivotal role of BA10 in higher order cognitive functions.
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Rostral prefrontal cortex is a very large brain region, and unusually so in humans. It seems likely therefore that it may support functions that are central to cognition. But until very recently, almost nothing was known about what these functions might be. The "gateway hypothesis" places these abilities at the very centre of human mental processing. It maintains that rostral PFC supports attending mechanisms that enable us to attend, to a novel degree, either to environmental stimuli, or by contrast, to self-generated or maintained representations (i.e. the "thoughts in our head"). In this way, investigations into the functions of rostral PFC will reveal key new insights into how human and non-human mental abilities differ.
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Generally positive correlations between different ability tests provide the evidence for a factor of "general intelligence" or Spearman's g. Though a possible neural substrate for g is suggested by executive impairments following frontal lobe lesions, preserved IQs in some frontal patients have been taken as strong evidence against this interpretation. We show that such results depend on how g is measured. Patients with superior IQs on the most clinically popular test--the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale--show impairments of 20-60 points on conventionally measured fluid intelligence or novel problem solving. On psychometric grounds, it is fluid intelligence that is most closely related to Spearman's g. The data suggest that g may in large part be a reflection of frontal functions.
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Patients with defined frontal lobe lesions were assigned to 1 of 2 groups based on whether they showed a behaviorally assessed dysexecutive syndrome or were behaviorally normal. All participants were tested on dual-task performance and on 2 tasks assumed to measure frontal lobe function, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and verbal fluency. The dysexecutive group differed significantly from the nondysexecutive in showing impaired capacity for dual-task coordination, but there were no significant differences on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and verbal fluency. Results are interpreted in terms of a multicomponent central executive, whose function is linked to, but not coterminous with, the operation of the frontal lobes.
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The prefrontal cortex has a vital role in effective, organized behaviour. Both functional neuroimaging in humans and electrophysiology in awake monkeys indicate that a fundamental principle of prefrontal function might be adaptive neural coding — in large regions of the prefrontal cortex, neurons adapt their properties to carry specifically information that is relevant to current concerns, producing a dense, distributed representation of related inputs, actions, rewards and other information. A model based on such adaptive coding integrates the role of the prefrontal cortex in working memory, attention and control. Adaptive coding points to new perspectives on several basic questions, including mapping of cognitive to neurophysiological functions, the influences of task content and difficulty, and the nature of frontal lobe specializations.
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Forty-two licensed drivers were tested in an experiment that required them to respond to an in-vehicle phone at the same time that they were faced with making a crucial stopping decision. Using test track facilities, we also examined the influence of driver gender and driver age on these dual-task response capacities. Each driver was given task practice and then performed a first block of 24 trials, where one trial represented one circuit of the test track. Half of the trials were control conditions in which neither the stop-light was activated nor was the in-vehicle phone triggered. Four trials required only stop-light response and a further four, phone response only. The remaining four trials required the driver to complete each task simultaneously. The order of presentation of specific trials was randomized and the whole sequence was repeated in a second block giving 48 trials per driver. In-vehicle phone response also contained an embedded memory task that was evaluated at the end of each trial circuit. Results confirmed our previous observation that in the dual-task condition there was a slower response to the light change. To compensate for this slowed response, drivers subsequently brake more intensely. Most importantly, we recorded a critical 15% increase in non-response to the stop-light in the presence of the phone distraction task which equates with increased stop-light violations on the open road. These response patterns varied by driver age and driver gender. In particular, age had a large effect on task components that required speed of response to multiple, simultaneous demands. Since driving represents a highly complex and interactive environment, it is not possible to specify a simplistic relationship between these distraction effects and outcome crash patterns. However, we can conclude that such in-vehicle technologies erode performance safety margin and distract drivers from their critical primary task of vehicle control. As such it can be anticipated that a causal relation exists to collision events. This is a crucial concern for all in-vehicle device designers and for the many safety researchers and professionals seeking to reduce the adverse impacts of vehicle collisions.
1890) La concurrence des etats psychologiques. Revue Philosophique de la France et L'Etranger
  • A Binet
Binet, A. (1890) La concurrence des etats psychologiques. Revue Philosophique de la France et L'Etranger, 29, 138-155.
Rostral prefrontal cortex (Brodmann area 10): metacognition in the brain
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