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Multi-tasking in movement sequence learning: The role of the control mode, coding and the sequence representation (2015-2018; 2018-2021)


Stefan Panzer

Prof. Dr. Stefan Panzer                        

Principal Investigator

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Christina Pfeifer

Christina Pfeifer 

PhD Candidate

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 Charles Shea

Prof. Dr. Charles Shea

Project Collaborator

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Former Team Members

Hanna Lindemann

Hanna Lindemann       

Research Fellow

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Abstract (2018-2021)

In some situations people are able to perform a movement sequence while performing another task at the same time, for example driving a car and carrying on a conversation. However, in other situations it is difficult to perform a sequence while another task is running simultaneously, for example writing the grocery list and carrying on a conversation. A challenging question is to know why in some situations sequential behavior can be performed in multi-task situations and in other situations not. A more detailed view at the driving example shows that driving a car involves a selection of actions intermittently. Some of the time the driver is having a conversation, he/she is may be producing pre-planned sequences rather than choosing new ones. In the psychological science literature Pashler (1992) proposed that during this time window it is possible that the structural and functional limitations of the central cognitive processes (e.g. the bottleneck) are freed up to perform other tasks simultaneously. This is also in accordance with the planning and control model proposed in the motor control and learning literature (Glover, 2004). According to this model the goal of the planning system is to select and to initiate an appropriate motor program to reach the movement goals. Planning also determines the initial kinematic parameterization of the movement sequence including timing and velocity. Performing a secondary task after finishing the planning process will not result in dual-task interference. Another interesting feature of multi-tasking is related to the question of the interaction between planning and the linkage between two tasks of different dimensions. For example, a triple jump athlete verbally supports the sequence of his/her jump by ‘hop-step-jump’. In this case different modalities (verbal/motor) support the learning of the sequence. If the two tasks are consistently combined, both tasks will be linked. The interesting theoretical question is to determine, to which degree the different tasks co-vary and if the linkage will be a part of the planning process. In three experimental series these questions on multi-tasking will be investigated.

Abstract (2015-2018)

Multi-tasking is required in many modern workplaces. Employees at call center services for example are expected to phone with a customer while typing at the same time on the computer keyboard to search for information to support the customer.
Another critical practical issue is the situation when performers have to execute movement sequences under conditions different from those experienced during practice in multi-task situations. In the context of the discussion changes in performance related equipment occasionally imposes subtle but often important changes in the manner in which the optimal performance should be performed (e.g. changing positions of keys on the German and American computer keyboard). Often this occurs in multi-task situations. Typing on a computer keyboard is a typical sequential behavior, where a number of relatively independent elements which through practice are concatenated, consolidated, or otherwise organized into what appears to be a smaller number of sub-sequences or a sequence. A challenging question is how sequential behavior will be developed and performed in multi-task situations. A multi-task situation can also be characterized as a dual-task situation, where two tasks have to be performed simultaneously. There are two lines of research with well-established theoretical concepts, empirical paradigms, and extensive empirical work which developed in parallel: (a) dual-task performance and (b) movement sequence learning. The sequence learning and the dual-task performance literature has developed to the degree that both can provide strong theoretical guidance to research aimed at maximizing the effectiveness, flexibility, and efficiency of sequence learning in multi-task situations. An increased understanding of the processes involved in the performance and learning of movement sequences in multi-task situations should lead to the design of more effective and efficient training procedures for employees that exploit the way performers structure, execute, store in memory, and ultimately learn, transfer, and modify movement sequences. In three experimental series the questions will be investigated.


Project Output

Pfeifer, C., Panzer, S., & Shea, C. H. (2022). Attentional Demand of a Movement Sequence Guided by Visual-Spatial and by Motor Representations. Journal of Motor Behavior, 1-10.

Panzer, S., Pfeifer, C., Leinen, P. & Shea, C. (2022). Dyad Training in a Perceptual-Motor Task:"Two Pairs of Eyes Are Better Than One". Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 1(aop), 1-12.

Pfeifer, C., Shea, C. & Panzer, S. (2022). Does Dual-Task Practice Influence the Temporal Change of Attentional Demands of Sequence Representation? Journal of Sport Psychology & Exercise, 44, S49.

Panzer, S. Pfeifer, C. Harenz, J. Bock, O. Shea, C.H. (2021). Inter-Individual Differences in the Capability to Reduce Dual-Task Interference in Sequence Learning. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Supplement, 43, 41.

Pfeifer, C. Shea, C.H. Bock, O. Haeger, M. Panzer, S. (2021). The Role of Executive Functions: Single-Task vs. Dual-Task Training in Learning a Simple Movement Sequence. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology Supplement, 43, 42.

Panzer, S., Kennedy, D., Leinen, P., Pfeifer, C., & Shea, C. (2021). Bimanual coordination associated with left-and right-hand dominance: testing the limb assignment and limb dominance hypothesis. Experimental Brain Research, 1-11. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-021-06082-z

Pfeifer, C., Harenz, J., Shea, C. H., & Panzer, S. (2021). Movement Sequence Learning: Cognitive Processing Demands to Develop a Response Structure. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 12, pp. 1–9. DOI:

Panzer, S., Haab, T., Massing, M., Pfeifer, C., & Shea, C. H. (2019). Dyad training protocols and the development of a motor sequence representation. Acta psychologica, 201, 102947.

Lindemann, H., Panzer, S., & Shea, C.H. (2017). The learning of a multi-element movement sequence under dual-task conditions. In C. Augste, & S. K├╝nzell (Eds.) Cogito ergo commoveo - Multitasking im Sport (pp. 106-108). Hamburg: Feldhaus.

Wang, C., Kennedy, D., Panzer, S., & Shea, C.H. (2017). Intentional switching between multi-frequency bimanual coordination patterns. Journal of Motor Behavior. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2017.1375453.

Panzer, S., Lindemann, H. & Shea, C.H. (2016). Effects of single-task practice of dual-task performance limitations in sequence learning. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 39, 170.

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