Endogenous control of task-order preparation in variable dual tasks

Abstract

Dual-task performance typically leads to performance impairments in comparison to single tasks (i.e., dual-task costs). The literature discusses the contribution to these dual-task costs due to (1) bottleneck limitations in the dual-component tasks and (2) executive control processes regulating access to this bottleneck. Previous studies investigated the characteristics of executive control processes primarily triggered by external stimulus information. In the present study, however, we investigated the existence as well as the characteristics of internally triggered and driven endogenous control processes to regulate bottleneck access. In detail, we presented dual-task blocks with varying task orders and informed participants in advance about repetitions of the same task order as well as switches between different task orders (i.e., task-order repetitions and switches were predictable). Experiment 1 demonstrated that task-order information and an increased preparation time generally increase the efficiency for endogenous task-order control and improves preparation for task-order switches. This finding is basically consistent with the assumption of the existence of endogenous control processes. Experiment 2, however, did not provide evidence that this endogenous control is related with working-memory maintenance mechanisms. Experiment 3 showed that endogenous control does not only fully complete task-order preparation but also requires exogenous, stimulus-driven components.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. Alport, A., Styles, E. A., & Hsieh, S. (1994). Shifting Intentional Set: Exploring the Dynamic Control of Tasks. In C. Umilta & M. Moscovitch (Eds.), Attention and performance XV (pp. 421–452). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Baddeley, A. (2012). Working memory: Theories, models, and controversies. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 1–29.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Band, G. P. H., & van Nes, F. T. (2006). Reconfiguration and the bottleneck: Does task switching affect the refractory period effect? European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 18(4), 593–623.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Braver, T. S., Cohen, J. D., Nystrom, L. E., Jonides, J., Smith, E. E., & Noll, D. C. (1997). A parametric study of prefrontal cortex involvement in human working memory. Neuroimage, 5(1), 49–62.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. de Jong, R. (1995). The role of preparation in overlapping-task performance. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A: Human Experimental Psychology, 48A(1), 2–25.

    Google Scholar 

  6. de Jong, R. (2000). An intention-activation account of residual switch costs. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.), Control of cognitive processes: Attention and performance XVIII (pp. 357–376). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Dreisbach, G., & Haider, H. (2009). How task representations guide attention: Further evidence for the shielding function of task sets. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35(2), 477–486.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Dutilh, G., Vandekerckhove, J., Forstmann, B. U., Keuleers, E., Brysbaert, M., & Wagenmakers, E.-J. (2012). Testing theories of post-error slowing. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 74(2), 454–465.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Hartley, A. A., & Little, D. M. (1999). Age-related differences and similarities in dual-task interference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128(4), 416–449.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Hazeltine, E., Ruthruff, E., & Remington, R. W. (2006). The role of input and output modality pairings in dual-task performance: Evidence for content-dependent central interference. Cognitive Psychology, 52(4), 291–345.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Hazeltine, E., & Wifall, T. (2011). Searching working memory for the source of dual-task costs. Psychological Research, 75(6), 466–475.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Hendrich, E., Strobach, T., Buss, M., Müller, H. J., & Schubert, T. (2012). Temporal-order judgment of visual and auditory stimuli: Modulations in situations with and without stimulus discrimination. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 6, 63.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  13. Hirsch, P., Nolden, S., & Koch, I. (2017). Higher-order cognitive control in dual tasks: Evidence from task-pair switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43(3), 569–580.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Hirsch, P., Nolden, S., Philipp, A. M., & Koch, I. (2018). Hierarchical task organization in dual tasks: Evidence for higher level task representations. Psychological Research, 82(4), 759–770.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Hübner, R., Futterer, T., & Steinhauser, M. (2001). On attentional control as a source of residual shift costs: Evidence from two-component task shifts. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 27(3), 640–653.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Huestegge, L., & Koch, I. (2009). Crossmodal action selection: Evidence from dual-task compatibility. Memory & Cognition, 38(4), 493–501.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kane, M. J., & Engle, R. W. (2003). Working-memory capacity and the control of attention: The contributions of goal neglect, response competition, and task set to Stroop interference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 132(1), 47–70.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Karbach, J., & Kray, J. (2009). How useful is executive control training? Age differences in near and far transfer of task-switching training. Developmental science, 12(6), 978–990.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Kiesel, A., Steinhauser, M., Wendt, M., Falkenstein, M., Jost, K., Philipp, A. M., & Koch, I. (2010). Control and interference in task switching—A review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(5), 849–874.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Koch, I., Poljac, E., Müller, H., & Kiesel, A. (2018). Cognitive structure, flexibility, and plasticity in human multitasking—An integrative review of dual-task and task-switching research. Psychological Bulletin, 144(6), 557–583.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Kübler, S., Reimer, C. B., Strobach, T., & Schubert, T. (2018). The impact of free-order and sequential-order instructions on task-order regulation in dual tasks. Psychological Research, 82(1), 40–53.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Leonhard, T., Ruiz Fernández, S., Ulrich, R., & Miller, J. (2011). Dual-task processing when task 1 is hard and task 2 is easy: Reversed central processing order? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37(1), 115.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Liefooghe, B., Demanet, J., & Vandierendonck, A. (2009). Is advance reconfiguration in voluntary task switching affected by the design employed? The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(5), 850–857.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Lien, M.-C., & Ruthruff, E. (2004). Task switching in a hierarchical task structure: Evidence for the fragility of the task repetition benefit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30(3), 697–713.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Lien, M.-C., Ruthruff, E., & Johnston, J. C. (2010). Attentional capture with rapidly changing attentional control settings. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36(1), 1–16.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Logan, G. D. (2003). Executive control of thought and action: In search of the wild homunculus. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(2), 45–48.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Logan, G. D., & Bundesen, C. (2003). Clever homunculus: Is there an endogenous act of control in the explicit task-cuing procedure? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29(3), 575–599.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Logan, G. D., Schneider, D. W., & Bundesen, C. (2007). Still clever after all these years: Searching for the homunculus in explicitly cued task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33(4), 978–994.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Luria, R., & Meiran, N. (2003). Online order control in the psychological refractory period paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29(3), 556–574.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Luria, R., & Meiran, N. (2006). Dual route for subtask order control: Evidence from the psychological refractory paradigm. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59(4), 720–744.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. MacDonald, A. W., Cohen, J. D., Stenger, V. A., & Carter, C. S. (2000). Dissociating the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex in cognitive control. Science, 288(5472), 1835–1838.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Maquestiaux, F., Hartley, A. A., & Bertsch, J. (2004). Can practice overcome age-related differences in the psychological refractory period effect? Psychology and Aging, 19(4), 649–667.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Mayr, U., & Kliegl, R. (2003). Differential effects of cue changes and task changes on task-set selection costs. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29(3), 362–372.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Meiran, N. (1996). Reconfiguration of processing mode prior to task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 22(6), 1423–1442.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Meiran, N. (2000). Modeling cognitive control in task-switching. Psychological Research, 63(3–4), 234–249.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Meyer, D. E., & Kieras, D. E. (1997). A computational theory of executive cognitive processes and multiple-task performance: Part 2. Accounts of psychological refractory-period phenomena. Psychological Review, 104(4), 749–791.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Miller, J., & Durst, M. A. (2015). Comparison of the psychological refractory period and prioritized processing paradigms: Can the response-selection bottleneck model explain them both? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 41(5), 1420–1441.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Miller, J., Ulrich, R., & Rolke, B. (2009). On the optimality of serial and parallel processing in the psychological refractory period paradigm: Effects of the distribution of stimulus onset asynchronies. Cognitive Psychology, 58(3), 273–310.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Mittelstädt, V., & Miller, J. (2017). Separating limits on preparation versus online processing paradigms: Evidence for resource models. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43(1), 89–102.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Monsell, S. (2003). Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(3), 134–140.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Monsell, S., & Mizon, G. A. (2006). Can the task-cuing paradigm measure an endogenous task-set reconfiguration process? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32(3), 493–516.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Müller, H. J., Reimann, B., & Krummenacher, J. (2003). Visual search for singleton feature targets across dimensions: Stimulus-and expectancy-driven effects in dimensional weighting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29(5), 1021–1035.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Norman, D. A., & Shallice, T. (1986). Attention to action: Willed and automatic control of behavior. In R. Davidson, G. Schwartz, & D. Shapiro (Eds.), Consciousness and self regulation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 4, pp. 1–18). New York, NY: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Oberauer, K. (2009). Interference between storage and processing in working memory: Feature overwriting, not similarity-based competition. Memory & Cognition, 37(3), 346–357.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Pashler, H. (1994). Dual-task interference in simple tasks: Data and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 116(2), 220–244.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  47. Philipp, A., & Koch, I. (2010). The integration of task-set components into cognitive task representations. Psychologica Belgica, 50, 383–411.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Rabbitt, P. M. A., & Vyas, S. M. (1970). An elementary preliminary taxonomy for some errors in laboratory choice RT tasks. Acta Psychologica, 33, 56–76.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Rogers, R. D., & Monsell, S. (1995). Costs of a predictible switch between simple cognitive tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 124(2), 207–231.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Rubinstein, J. S., Meyer, D. E., & Evans, J. E. (2001). Executive control of cognitive processes in task switching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27(4), 763–797.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. Ruiz Fernández, S., Leonhard, T., Rolke, B., & Ulrich, R. (2011). Processing two tasks with varying task order: Central stage duration influences central processing order. Acta Psychologica, 137(1), 10–17.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  52. Schneider, D. W., & Logan, G. D. (2007). Task switching versus cue switching: Using transition cuing to disentangle sequential effects in task-switching performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(2), 370–378.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Schneider, W., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1977). Controlled and automatic human information processing: I. Detection, search, and attention. Psychological Review, 84(1), 1–57.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Schubert, T. (2008). The central attentional limitation and executive control. Frontiers in Bioscience, 13(13), 3569–3580.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  55. Schubert, T., & Strobach, T. (2018). Practice-related optimization of dual-task performance: Efficient task instantiation during overlapping task processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 44(12), 1884–1904.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. Sigman, M., & Dehaene, S. (2006). Dynamics of the central bottleneck: Dual-task and task uncertainty. PLoS Biology, 4, e220.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  57. Stelzel, C., Kraft, A., Brandt, S. A., & Schubert, T. (2008). Dissociable neural effects of task order control and task set maintenance during dual-task processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(4), 613–628.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  58. Strobach, T., Hendrich, E., Kübler, S., Müller, H., & Schubert, T. (2018). Processing order in dual-task situations: The “first-come, first-served” principle and the impact of task order instructions. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 80(7), 1785–1803.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Strobach, T., Salminen, T., Karbach, J., & Schubert, T. (2014). Practice-related optimization and transfer of executive functions: A general review and a specific realization of their mechanisms in dual tasks. Psychological Research, 78(6), 836–851.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  60. Strobach, T., Schütz, A., & Schubert, T. (2015). On the importance of Task 1 and error performance measures in PRP dual-task studies. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 403.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  61. Sudevan, P., & Taylor, D. A. (1987). The cuing and priming of cognitive operations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 13(1), 89–103.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. Szameitat, A. J., Lepsien, J., von Cramon, D. Y., Sterr, A., & Schubert, T. (2006). Task-order coordination in dual-task performance and the lateral prefrontal cortex: An event-related fMRI study. Psychological Research, 70(6), 541–552.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. Szameitat, A. J., Schubert, T., Müller, K., & von Cramon, D. Y. (2002). Localization of executive functions in dual-task performance with fMRI. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14(8), 1184–1199.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  64. Töllner, T., Strobach, T., Schubert, T., & Müller, H. J. (2012). The effect of task order predictability in audio-visual dual task performance: Just a central capacity limitation? Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 6, 75.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  65. Vandierendonck, A., Liefooghe, B., & Verbruggen, F. (2010). Task switching: interplay of reconfiguration and interference control. Psychological Bulletin, 136(4), 601–626.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  66. Welford, A. T. (1952). The ‘psychological refractory period’and the timing of high-speed performance—A review and a theory. British Journal of Psychology. General Section, 43(1), 2–19.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Welford, A. T. (1980). The single-channel hypothesis. In A. T. Welford (Ed.), Reaction times (pp. 215–252). London: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Lea Skaliks, Jule Ballhausen, Svenja Dymke, Marie Bahnsen, Nell Scheffler, Stina Klein, Pauline Grathwohl, Jorma Slyter, and Özlem Kurtoglu for their assistance in data collection. Data files are available at https://osf.io/wdmz7/?view_only=2a5173b0a7674db892de19451a1d616d.

Funding

This study was funded by a grant of the German Research Foundation (Schu 1397/7-1, 7-2) to T.S. (first author) and to T.S. (last author), and it is part of the Priority Program, SPP 1772.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tilo Strobach.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

T.S. (first author) declares that he has no conflict of interest. S.K. declares that he has no conflict of interest. T.S. (last author) declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national 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.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Strobach, T., Kübler, S. & Schubert, T. Endogenous control of task-order preparation in variable dual tasks. Psychological Research 85, 345–363 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01259-2

Download citation