Multi-task prioritization during the performance of a postural–manual and communication task

  • Kara L. Simon-Kuhn
  • Jeffrey M. HaddadEmail author
  • Jessica E. Huber
Research Article


Individuals are often required to complete two tasks simultaneously, such as walking while talking. Although the influence of performing a cognitive task during upright standing has been studied, less is known regarding how individuals prioritize the performance of multiple goal-directed tasks. The purpose of this study was to examine how young adults prioritize the performance of two goal-directed tasks while standing: generating speech (communicating) while performing a postural–manual task. Fifteen young adult female participants completed four conditions of the postural–manual task, quietly and while talking; a control condition of speech while standing was also completed. Task accuracy was defined as holding a block within an opening without hitting the perimeter and speaking clearly. Participants generally prioritized accurate communication over accurate completion of the postural–manual task, as evidenced by modifying their manual and postural strategies and decreasing manual accuracy.


Multi-task Speech Posture Balance Communication 



The authors would like to thank Jiyeon Lee for her contributions to the development of linguistic measures for this study and Sandy Snyder for her support with organization. We would also like to thank the following students who made significant contributions to data collection and analysis: Julia Bergmann, Stacia Braden, Kelsey Russell, Brianna Kiefer, and Anny Alvar.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants

All procedures were approved by the Purdue institutional review board and were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Andersson G, Yardley L, Luxon L (1998) A dual-task study of interference between mental activity and control of balance. Am J Otol 19:632–637PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson G, Hagman J, Talianzadeh R et al (2002) Effect of cognitive load on postural control. Brain Res Bull 58:135–139. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Armson J, Stuart A (1998) Effect of extended exposure to frequency-altered feedback on stuttering during reading and monologue. J Speech Lang Hear Res Rockv 41:479–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Athreya DN, Riley MA, Davis TJ (2014) Visual influences on postural and manual interpersonal coordination during a joint precision task. Exp Brain Res 232:2741–2751. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Balasubramaniam R, Riley MA, Turvey MT (2000) Specificity of postural sway to the demands of a precision task. Gait Posture 11:12–24. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bloem BR, Grimbergen YAM, Cramer M, Valkenburg VV (2000) “Stops walking when talking” does not predict falls in Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol 48:268–268.;2-4 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bloem BR, Grimbergen YAM, Cramer M et al (2001) Prospective assessment of falls in Parkinson’s disease. J Neurol 248:950–958. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bloem BR, Grimbergen YAM, van Dijk JG, Munneke M (2006) The “posture second” strategy: a review of wrong priorities in Parkinson’s disease. J Neurol Sci 248:196–204. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Blood GW, Mahan BW, Hyman M (1979) Judging personality and appearance from voice disorders. J Commun Disord 12:63–67. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Boersma P (2001) Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer. Glot International 5(9/10):341–345Google Scholar
  11. Bond JM, Morris M (2000) Goal-directed secondary motor tasks: their effects on gait in subjects with Parkinson disease. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 81:110–116. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Boyle MP, Blood GW, Blood IM (2009) Effects of perceived causality on perceptions of persons who stutter. J Fluen Disord 34:201–218. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Daw ND, Niv Y, Dayan P (2005) Uncertainty-based competition between prefrontal and dorsolateral striatal systems for behavioral control. Nat Neurosci 8:1704–1711. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Doumas M, Krampe RT (2015) Ecological relevance determines task priority in older adults’ multitasking. J Gerontol Ser B 70:377–385. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dromey C, Bates E (2005) Speech interactions with linguistic, cognitive, and visuomotor tasks. J Speech Lang Hear Res 48:295–305. Scholar
  16. Dromey C, Shim E (2008) The effects of divided attention on speech motor, verbal fluency, and manual task performance. J Speech Lang Hear Res 51:1171–1182. Scholar
  17. Dromey C, Jarvis E, Sondrup S et al (2010) Bidirectional interference between speech and postural stability in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Int J Speech Lang Pathol 12:446–454. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Ebersbach G, Dimitrijevic MR, Poewe W (1995) Influence of concurrent tasks on gait: a dual-task approach. Percept Mot Skills 81:107–113. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Foreman KB, Sondrup S, Dromey C et al (2013) The effects of practice on the concurrent performance of a speech and postural task in persons with Parkinson disease and healthy controls. Park Dis. Google Scholar
  20. Fraizer EV, Mitra S (2008) Methodological and interpretive issues in posture-cognition dual-tasking in upright stance. Gait Posture 27:271–279. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Greene JO, Cappella JN (1986) Cognition and talk: the relationship of semantic units to temporal patterns of fluency in spontaneous speech. Lang Speech 29:141–157. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gribble PA, Robinson RH, Hertel J, Denegar CR (2009) The effects of gender and fatigue on dynamic postural control. J Sport Rehabil 18:240–257. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Haddad JM, Emmerik REAV, Wheat JS, Hamill J (2008) Developmental changes in the dynamical structure of postural sway during a precision fitting task. Exp Brain Res 190:431–441. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Haddad JM, Ryu JH, Seaman JM, Ponto KC (2010) Time-to-contact measures capture modulations in posture based on the precision demands of a manual task. Gait Posture 32:592–596. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Haddad JM, Rietdyk S, Claxton LJ, Huber J (2013) Task-dependent postural control throughout the lifespan. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 41:123–132. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hernández LF, Redgrave P, Obeso JA (2015) Habitual behavior and dopamine cell vulnerability in Parkinson disease. Front Neuroanat 9:91. Google Scholar
  27. Holmes JD, Jenkins ME, Johnson AM et al (2010) Dual-task interference: the effects of verbal cognitive tasks on upright postural stability in Parkinson’s disease. Park Dis. Google Scholar
  28. Huber JE, Darling M, Francis EJ, Zhang D (2012) Impact of typical aging and Parkinson’s disease on the relationship among breath pausing, syntax, and punctuation. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 21:368–379. Scholar
  29. Kemper S (1987) Life-span changes in syntactic complexity. J Gerontol 42:323–328. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kemper S, Thompson M, Marquis J (2001) Longitudinal change in language production: effects of aging and dementia on grammatical complexity and propositional content. Psychol Aging 16:600–614. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kemper S, Herman R, Lian C (2003) Age differences in sentence production. J Gerontol Ser B 58:P260–P268. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kemper S, Herman RE, Liu C-J (2004) Sentence production by young and older adults in controlled contexts. J Gerontol Ser B 59:P220–P224. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kemper S, Herman RE, Nartowicz J (2005) Different effects of dual task demands on the speech of young and older adults. Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 12:340–358. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kemper S, Schmalzried R, Hoffman L, Herman R (2010) Aging and the vulnerability of speech to dual task demands. Psychol Aging 25:949–962. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Kemper S, Hoffman L, Schmalzried R et al (2011) Tracking talking: dual task costs of planning and producing speech for young versus older adults. Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 18:257–279. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Keramati M, Dezfouli A, Piray P (2011) Speed/accuracy trade-off between the habitual and the goal-directed processes. PLoS Comput Biol 7:1–21. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kerr B, Condon SM, McDonald LA (1985) Cognitive spatial processing and the regulation of posture. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 11:617–622. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Levelt WJM (1989) Speaking: from intention to articulation. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  39. Lindsey AE, Greene JO, Parker RG, Sassi M (1995) Effects of advance message formulation on message encoding: evidence of cognitively based hesitation in the production of multiple-goal messages. Commun Q 43:320–331. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ludlow CL, Connor NP, Bassich CJ (1987) Speech timing in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Brain Lang 32:195–214. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Lundin-Olsson L, Nyberg L, Gustafson Y (1997) “Stops walking when talking” as a predictor of falls in elderly people. Lancet 349:617. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. McNevin NH, Wulf G (2002) Attentional focus on supra-postural tasks affects postural control. Hum Mov Sci 21:187–202. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. McNevin NH, Shea CH, Wulf G (2003) Increasing the distance of an external focus of attention enhances learning. Psychol Res 67:22–29. PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Metter EJ, Hanson WR (1986) Clinical and acoustical variability in hypokinetic dysarthria. J Commun Disord 19:347–366. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Mitra S, Fraizer EV (2004) Effects of explicit sway-minimization on postural–suprapostural dual-task performance. Hum Mov Sci 23:1–20. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Oviatt S (1995) Predicting spoken disfluencies during human–computer interaction. Comput Speech Lang 9:19–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Patel P, Lamar M, Bhatt T (2014) Effect of type of cognitive task and walking speed on cognitive-motor interference during dual-task walking. Neuroscience 260:140–148. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Patterson TS, Bishop MD, McGuirk TE et al (2011) Reliability of upper extremity kinematics while performing different tasks in individuals with stroke. J Mot Behav 43:121–130. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Price PJ, Ostendorf M, Shattuck-Hufnagel S, Fong C (1991) The use of prosody in syntactic disambiguation. J Acoust Soc Am 90:2956–2970. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Raffegeau TE, Haddad JM, Huber JE, Rietdyk S (2018) Walking while talking: young adults flexibly allocate resources between speech and gait. Gait Posture 64:59–62. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Redgrave P, Rodriguez M, Smith Y et al (2010) Goal-directed and habitual control in the basal ganglia: implications for Parkinson’s disease. Nat Rev Neurosci 11:760. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Riley MA, Baker AA, Schmit JM (2003) Inverse relation between postural variability and difficulty of a concurrent short-term memory task. Brain Res Bull 62:191–195. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Riley MA, Baker AA, Schmit JM, Weaver E (2005) Effects of visual and auditory short-term memory tasks on the spatiotemporal dynamics and variability of postural sway. J Mot Behav 37:311–324. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Ryan EB, Capadano HL (1978) Age perceptions and evaluative reactions toward adult speakers. J Gerentol 33:98–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schirmer A, Alter K, Kotz SA, Friederici AD (2001) Lateralization of prosody during language production: a lesion study. Brain Lang 76:1–17. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Shah AP, Baum SR, Dwivedi VD (2006) Neural substrates of linguistic prosody: evidence from syntactic disambiguation in the productions of brain-damaged patients. Brain Lang 96:78–89. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Shriberg E (2001) To ‘errrr’ is human: ecology and acoustics of speech disfluencies. J Int Phon Assoc 31:153–169. Google Scholar
  58. Stegemöller EL, Wilson JP, Hazamy A et al (2014) Associations between cognitive and gait performance during single- and dual-task walking in people with Parkinson disease. Phys Ther 94:757–766. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Stine EL (1990) On-line processing of written text by younger and older adults. Psychol Aging 5:68–78. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Stine EAL, Cheung H, Henderson D (1995) Adult age differences in the on-line processing of new concepts in discourse. Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 2:1–18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stoffregen TA, Hove P, Bardy BG et al (2007) Postural stabilization of perceptual but not cognitive performance. J Mot Behav 39:126–138CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Teasdale N, Bard C, Larue J, Fleury M (1993) On the cognitive penetrability of posture control. Exp Aging Res 19:1–13. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Walker EJ, Risko EF, Kingstone A (2014) Fillers as signals: evidence from a question–answering paradigm. Discourse Process 51:264–286. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Woollacott M, Shumway-Cook A (2002) Attention and the control of posture and gait: a review of an emerging area of research. Gait Posture 16:1–14. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Wulf G, McNevin N, Shea CH (2001) The automaticity of complex motor skill learning as a function of attentional focus. Q J Exp Psychol Sect A 54:1143–1154. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kara L. Simon-Kuhn
    • 1
  • Jeffrey M. Haddad
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jessica E. Huber
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health and KinesiologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations