Team publishes study on task constraint and task switching

Kessler Foundation researchers publish study on task constraint and task switching
Dr. Starla Weaver. Dr. Weaver is an associate research scientist at Kessler Foundation. She specializes in cognitive research in traumatic brain injury. Credit: Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation scientists have published results of cognitive research that show the negative effects that unexpected task constraint, following self-generated task choice, has on task-switching performance. The article, "You can't always get what you want: The influence of unexpected task constraint on voluntary task switching", was published online on June 11 by The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology . The authors are Starla Weaver, PhD, and Glenn Wylie, DPhil, of Kessler Foundation, John J. Foxe, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yeshiva University, and Marina Shpaner, PhD, of the University of Vermont. The study was funded by Kessler Foundation.

The 12 healthy adults who participated in the study, performed a voluntary task-switching procedure in which they specified the task they wanted to perform, were presented with a cue that confirmed the choice, and then performed the cued task. For some trials, participants received cues to perform a task that did not match their choice. In those instances, responses were most striking when participants unexpectedly had to repeat the previous task. The performance of the unexpected task was markedly impaired.

"We encounter unexpected task constraint in our daily lives," noted Dr. Weaver. "For example, when we are diverted from our planned route by a detour; or when the film we planned to see is sold out. Our results show that the preparation that an individual undertakes in order to perform a task is difficult to undo," said Dr. Weaver, associate research scientist at Kessler Foundation. "Unexpected task constraint following self-generated task choice has a negative effect on . This suggests that one mechanism used to guide behavior during multitasking is the implementation of swift and durable task-preparation processes (which are difficult to undo). Uncovering the mechanisms that enable multitasking is the first step toward improving the abilities of patients, such as persons with , who often display deficits in multitasking ability."

More information: DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2014.917115

Provided by Kessler Foundation

3.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers study impact of head movement on fMRI data

Feb 19, 2014

Kessler Foundation researchers have shown that discarding data from subjects with multiple sclerosis (MS) who exhibit head movement during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may bias sampling away from subjects ...

Study shows cognitive benefit of lifelong bilingualism

Jan 08, 2013

Seniors who have spoken two languages since childhood are faster than single-language speakers at switching from one task to another, according to a study published in the January 9 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Compared to the ...

HFES: Multi-tasking can impair diagnostic performance

Sep 23, 2013

(HealthDay)—Performing a complex concurrent memorization task negatively impacts diagnostic performance, according to a study that will be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Human Factors and ...

Recommended for you

Despite risks, benzodiazepine use highest in older people

19 hours ago

Prescription use of benzodiazepines—a widely used class of sedative and anti-anxiety medications—increases steadily with age, despite the known risks for older people, according to a comprehensive analysis of benzodiazepine ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.