Dr. Edita Poljac
Phone: +49 761 203 9163
Fax: +49 761 203 2490
Institut für Psychologie
Abt. Allgemeine Psychologie
Engelbergerstr. 41
D-79106 Freiburg


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Call for papers - Special issue in Psychological Research: New Perspectives on Human Multitasking

Topic: New Perspectives on Human Multitasking

Guest Editors: Edita Poljac, Andrea Kiesel, Iring Koch, Hermann Müller


Dear colleagues,

We would like to invite you to submit a manuscript for inclusion in a special issue of Psychological Research. The focus of the special issue will be Human Multitasking. This topic encompasses a wide range of specific research questions that try to address the cognitive mechanisms involved in multitasking situations and the ways to connect these to real world applications. In modern life, people face various situations that afford multitasking. Usually, such situations are associated with performance decrements, failures, and risks of accidents. However, to understand human ‘multitasking’ one first needs to be clear about what is meant by the term ‘task’. We use the term broadly, so that simple stimulus-response translations (e.g., press a response key whenever the letter A appears), continuous tracking tasks, complex mental operations (like multiplying digits), or complex movements (throwing a ball) can constitute a task if a person aims to achieve a discriminable goal state. Keeping that in mind, we speak of ‘multitasking’ whenever cognitive processes of two (or more) tasks overlap in time. In this way, one defining characteristic of multitasking is the existence of time constraints that prevent that each task is operated in temporal isolation. Yet, it is sufficient that cognitive processes involved occur concurrently in time and are thus simultaneously mentally represented. Consequently, in addition to dual tasks that require concurrent, simultaneous motor responses, also serial task switching as well as task interruptions and resumptions fall within our definition of human multitasking.

So far, cognitive psychology has mainly focused on structural and functional limitations of cognitive processes when facing multiple cognitive task requirements. Structural limitations assume strict serial processing for at least one processing stage, while functional limitations assume flexible, parallel processing limited by the amount of available resources. In contrast, some other disciplines, such as movement science, emphasize the plasticity of cognition and training possibilities. As both approaches have provided ample empirical evidence for their views but have predominantly worked in isolation, this example clearly illustrates the need for a more integrative approach to multitasking. A challenge for the contemporary research on multitasking is to bring together the issues of structure, flexibility, and plasticity in human multitasking, offering a new integrative theoretical framework that accounts for this fundamental aspect of human behaviour. This special issue aims at providing new perspectives on human multitasking.

We are aware that people are unlikely to reserve their best data for such an occasion, yet we would like to include important and interesting new findings to the special issue, resulting in strong papers. Therefore, we are inviting authors to submit some form of data-based generalization, that is, an empirically grounded paper that aims at a bigger picture. To be more specific, strictly theoretical papers would be acceptable inasmuch as they present a really novel insight. Strictly empirical papers would also be acceptable, but then we would expect the findings to satisfy usual scientific standards. Yet, the best solution would be something in between, especially if care is taken to interconnect the papers as much as possible. To reach this latter goal, we ask you to try to relate your paper to those of the other authors whenever possible (we will make them available to all authors asap), pointing out differences and commonalities. In particular, we want you to be specific with respect to the following questions:

•   How does your approach integrate dual task and task switching perspectives? What is the key mechanism or function you emphasize?

•   Does your approach ascribe the costs related to multitasking to limited cognitive resources and/or to structural limitations (e.g., central bottleneck)?

•   Which cognitive processes do you argue to be involved in multitasking, and/or responsible for performance costs, and/or how are these processes changing regarding their efficiency due to age or training?


Given the space limitations of the journal, individual papers cannot be longer than 10 print pages, which is usually about 35 manuscript pages, double-spaced, single-sided, all included. You will receive more specific information about these things later.


The time schedule is as follows:


Dec 15/16                            first version; papers submitted after the deadline will not further be considered

Feb 15/17                            reviews

Mar 1/17                              action letter

June 15/17                          second version

Aug 15/17                            action letter

Sep 15/17                            to Psychological Research


As you can see, this is a tight but realistic schedule, which will require some effort and discipline to meet. Yet, the reward is a publication date in 2017 or early 2018. Should you have any difficulties with these dates please let us know asap.

Each paper will be reviewed by at least two peers chosen by the action editor. Please submit your paper through the Author Login on this link: If you are a new user, you will first need to register and then proceed with the Author Login. Once you are logged in, you can click on Submit New Manuscript after which you need to choose the article type as ‘S.I. New Perspectives on Human Multitasking’ in the pull down menu. If there are no objections we would like to put the manuscripts on the web, on a hidden site with the files protected by a password shared by all authors.

We count on 10 to 15 articles for the special issue – this means that we strive for 20-30 submissions. We aim to have a strict review process with a reasonable amount of rejections. We aim to avoid rejections after revision. Accordingly, we will have a strict rejection policy for the first round of submissions. Further, we try to avoid a second round of revisions.

We hope that you share our enthusiasm for this project, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.


Yours sincerely,

Edita Poljac, Andrea Kiesel, Iring Koch, and Herman Müller

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