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11-03-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2018

Psychological Research 4/2018

Hierarchical task organization in dual tasks: evidence for higher level task representations

Psychological Research > Uitgave 4/2018
Patricia Hirsch, Sophie Nolden, Andrea M. Philipp, Iring Koch


To examine whether hierarchical higher level task representations comprising the task sets of Task 1 (T1) and Task 2 (T2) are activated within each trial in dual-task situations, we combined the psychological refractory period (PRP) paradigm with the task-pair switching logic (Hirsch et al. 2017). In Experiment 1, in which subjects switched between task-pairs including a varying T1 and a constant T2, we found a PRP effect (i.e., worse performance with short stimulus onset asynchrony [SOA] than with long SOA) and task-pair switch costs in T1 and T2 (impaired performance in task-pair switches compared to task-pair repetitions). However, since in Experiment 1 there were no forward and backward response–response compatibility effects that indicated interference between T1 and T2, we could not exclude that the activation of T1 persisted into the next trial despite the intervening T2, and hence, that task-pair switch costs are due to repetition-priming effects of T1 across task-pairs rather than due to persisting activation of task-pair representations. In Experiment 2, we used a modified task-pair switching logic with a constant T1 and a varying T2, and replicated task-pair switch costs under conditions that not only rule out repetition-priming effects of T1 across task-pairs as the source of task-pair switch costs but also disentangle the effects of switching task-pairs from those of switching T1. These effects were associated in previous studies using the original task-pair switching logic. Thus, the findings of the present study strongly suggest that hierarchical higher level task representations are activated during dual-task processing.

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