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The role of inhibition in human multitasking performance (2015-2018; 2018-2021)

Team

Stefanie Schuch

Dr. Stefanie Schuch       

Principal Investigator

contact email

Stefanie Schuch RA team

Research Assistants Team        

Leonie Cabot

Maria Eivar

Paula Kirschmeier

 

Former Team Members

Stefanie Schuch Research Assistants Team

Research Assistants Team

Pia Dautzenberg

Klara Freitag

Falk Hemker

Sebastian Pütz

 

 

 

 

This project is done in collaboration with 1) other SPP project Prof. Otmar Bock, Dr. David Dignath, Prof. Gesine Dreisbach, Dr. Kerstin Fröber, Prof. Andrea Kiesel, Jun.-Prof. Sarah Lukas, Prof. Mike Wendt, and 2) external collaborators Dr. Miriam Gade, Dr. James A. Grange, Prof. Bruno Kopp (alphabetically ordered).

 

Abstract (2018-2021)

A crucial cognitive process involved in human multitasking performance is the inhibition of irrelevant tasks. Inhibiting a previous, no longer relevant, task allows one to effectively perform the currently relevant task. This project aims to investigate the characteristics of such cognitive inhibition on the task level using behavioral measures as well as diffusion modeling. Diffusion modeling allows for investigating the cognitive mechanisms underlying (multitasking) performance on a fine-graned level. Based on the research conducted during the first phase of Priority Program 1772, research in the second phase will investigate the following aspects of task-level inhibitory control: I) Age-related and individual differences in task inhibition will be explored using diffusion modeling. II) In search for boundary conditions of task inhibition, the role of episodic retrieval effects for the measurement of task inhibition will be assessed, also using diffusion modeling. Moreover, given that the standard measure of task-level inhibition – N-2 task repetition costs – did not always prove reliable during phase 1, alternative measures will be explored in phase 2. III) Using a new paradigm, the triggering conditions of task inhibition (task conflict versus response conflict) will be investigated. IV) Two alternative measures of task inhibition, and their relationship to N-2 task repetition costs, will be assessed. Also, the effect size of N-2 task repetition costs will be assessed using a meta-analytic approach. V) The newly developed theoretical perspective of multiple conflict-control loops in multitasking will be explored empirically, by testing the relationship between task inhibition (as measured by N-2 task repetition costs) and conflict adaptation (as measured by congruency sequence effects), as well as their modulation by affective state. In sum, the knowledge gained from these studies will further inform theories of multitasking and task switching in cognitive psychology. Moreover, it will contribute to our understanding of differences between younger and older individuals in multitasking performance.

Abstract (2015-2018)

A crucial cognitive process involved in human multitasking performance is the inhibition of irrelevant tasks. Inhibiting a previous, no longer relevant, task allows one to effectively perform the currently relevant task. This project aims to further investigate the characteristics of such task inhibition in three ways. First, focusing on the mechanisms underlying this important cognitive process, aftereffects of task inhibition will be investigated from the perspective of flexible adjustment of cognitive control. Moreover, the prominent assumption of decay of task inhibition, which occurs in many theories of task switching, will be put to explicit empirical test. Second, contextual influences on task inhibition will be investigated; specifically, how task inhibition is affected by social and emotional context. It will be assessed whether task inhibition occurs when two persons take turns in responding in a task-switching paradigm. Measuring task inhibition across persons would provide first evidence that inhibition of a previous task can be triggered by observing another person switch to another task. Furthermore, it will be investigated how task inhibition is modulated by mood state and affective context, linking up with a growing literature on affect and cognitive control. Third, task inhibition will be investigated in settings with higher ecological validity. So far task inhibition has mainly been assessed using paradigms with abstract cognitive tasks and simple response requirements. Here, it will be investigated whether task inhibition occurs with more natural stimuli (i.e., pictures of everyday objects), and with more complex actions (i.e., response sequences instead of single button presses). Furthermore, age-related changes of task inhibition will be investigated in these more ecologically valid settings. Over and above these three avenues, task inhibition will also be assessed in other paradigms of serial task switching that are applied within the Priority Program 1772, where inhibition is not in the focus of research but nevertheless might play a role. Finally, the effect size of task inhibition will be assessed using meta-analytic approaches. In sum, the knowledge gained from these studies will further inform theories of multitasking and task switching in cognitive psychology. Moreover, it might help to create work environments with appropriate social and affective context, as well as learning environments for both younger and older individuals that allow for optimized multitasking performance.

 

Project Output

 

Schuch, S., Dignath, D., Steinhauser, M., & Janczyk, M. (2018). Monitoring and Control in Multitasking. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, Online First. DOI 10.3758/s13423-018-1512-z

Schuch, S., & Grange, J. A. (2018). Increased cognitive control after task conflict? Investigating the N-3 effect in task switching. Psychological Research. Online First. doi: 10.1007/s00426-018-1025-4.

Schuch, S. & Konrad, K. (2017). Investigating task inhibition in children versus adults: A diffusion model analysis. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 156, 143-167. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2016.11.012.

Schuch, S., & Pütz, S. (2017). Mood state dissociates conflict adaptation within tasks and across tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(9), 1487-1499. doi: 10.1037/xlm0000530.

Schuch, S., Sommer, A., & Lukas, S. (2017). Action control in task switching: Do action effects modulate N-2repetition costs in task switching? Psychological Research, 82(1), 146-156. doi: 10.1007/s00426-017- 0946-7.

Schuch, S. (2016). Task Inhibition and Response Inhibition in Older versus Younger Adults: A Diffusion Model Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1722. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01722.

The audio files to go with Schuch & Konrad (2017) can be found here. Please not that you need to unzip the file first.

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