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Action scheduling in multitasking: A multi-phase framework of response-order control

  • Aleks PieczykolanEmail author
  • Lynn Huestegge
Article

Abstract

Temporal organization of human behavior is particularly important when several action requirements must be processed around the same time. A crucial challenge in such multitasking situations is to control the temporal response order. However, multitasking studies usually focus on temporal processing dynamics after a specific response order – which is usually triggered by stimulus sequence and instructions – has been determined, whereas a comprehensive study of response-order scheduling mechanisms is still lacking. Across three psychological refractory period (PRP) experiments, we examined the impact of stimulus order, response characteristics, and several other factors on response order. Crucially, we utilized a combination of effector systems (oculomotor and manual) that are known to ensure reasonable response order variability in the first place. The results suggest that – contrary to previous assumptions – bottom-up factors (e.g., stimulus order) are not the primary determinant of temporal action scheduling. Instead, we found a major influence of effector-based characteristics (i.e., oculomotor task prioritization) that could be attenuated by both instructions and changes in the task environment (providing temporally predictable input). Effects of between-task compatibility suggest that a dedicated stimulus-code comparison process precedes and affects response-order scheduling. Based on the present results and previous findings, we propose a multi-phase framework of temporal response-order control that emphasizes the extent to which cognitive control of action scheduling is dynamically adaptive to particular task characteristics.

Keywords

PRP paradigm Dual-task processing Response-order scheduling Oculomotor responses Effector prioritization 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Andrea Zahn, Marvin Liesner, Nora Gosch, and Aki Schumacher for the collection of the data and data preprocessing, Mark Asbach for technical support, and those who participated in the study. The present research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (HU 1847/3-1, HU 1847/4-1).

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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Human Technology CenterRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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