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Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research 7/2020

09-05-2019 | Original Article

Multiple processing limitations underlie multitasking costs

Auteurs: Kelvin F. H. Lui, Alan C.-N. Wong

Gepubliceerd in: Psychological Research | Uitgave 7/2020

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Abstract

Human multitasking is typically defined as the practice of performing more than one task at the same time (dual task) or rapidly alternating between multiple tasks (task switching). The majority of research in multitasking has been focusing on individual paradigms, with surprisingly little effort in understanding their relationships. We adopted an individual-difference approach to reveal the limitations underlying multitasking costs measured in different paradigms. Exploratory factor analyses revealed not a general multitasking factor but instead three different processing limitations associated with response selection, retrieval and maintenance of task information, and task-set reconfiguration. The three factors were only weakly correlated with and thus not reducible to common measures of processing speed, working memory capacity and fluid intelligence. Males and females excelled in different aspects of multitasking, demonstrating the benefit of using a multifaceted view of multitasking competency in group comparison. Findings of the current study help resolve conflicting results between studies using different paradigms, and form the basis of more comprehensive measurement tools and training protocols covering different aspects of multitasking limitations. The study will also help future integration of multitasking abilities into the theoretical framework of executive function.

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1
Eight multitasking paradigms with 14 multitasking cost indicators were initially identified. We decided to exclude two paradigms after a pilot testing with 20 participants. The continuous tracking—word generation paradigm (Strayer & Johnston, 2001)—was discarded due to its lower reliability and the high correlation between tracking errors of the tracking tasks in this paradigm and that in the continuous tracking—working memory span paradigms. An interruption paradigm (Bai, Jones, Moss, & Doane, 2014) was also included in the pilot study and excluded in the actual experiment due to the low reliability of the interruption and resumption costs.
 
2
A difference between the text entry task adopted in Borst et al. (2010) and that in the current study was that Borst et al. (2010) required participants to enter the letters by clicking on an on-screen keypad while participants entered the letters by simply using the keyboard in the current study. Due to this difference, participants in the current study were able to move their fingers to the next letter on the keyboard during the subtraction task in the hard condition. As a result, they could respond very quickly to the text entry task in the next trial.
 
3
Velicer’s minimum average partial test (MAP) was not performed in the current study, as the MAP method showed consistent underestimation of the number of factors when the number of variables per component was small (Zwick & Velicer, 1986).
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Multiple processing limitations underlie multitasking costs
Auteurs
Kelvin F. H. Lui
Alan C.-N. Wong
Publicatiedatum
09-05-2019
Uitgeverij
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Gepubliceerd in
Psychological Research / Uitgave 7/2020
Print ISSN: 0340-0727
Elektronisch ISSN: 1430-2772
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01196-0