A situation in which the individual’s goal is to divide attention among two (or more) tasks.
Telford (1931) demonstrated that when a person responds to two successive stimuli, the response to the second stimulus is slower as the distance between the two responses is shortened. He named this effect the psychological refractory period, after the phenomena observed in neurons of reduced excitability just following an action potential. The first modern theories of how an individual is able to perform two or more activities concurrently came from the information theorists Welford (1952) and Broadbent (1958) and formalized Telford’s assumption. The assumption was that activities did not co-occur, but instead they were dealt with in a series. This opinion of serial processing was challenged in the 1970s (Kahneman 1973; Posner and Boies 1971) when researchers proposed a general resource theory that hypothesized that individuals were able to...
References and Readings
- Baddeley, A. D. (1986). Working memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Broadbent, D. E. (1958). Perception and communication. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Pashler, H. (2000). Task switching and multitask performance. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.), Attention and performance XVIII: Control of mental processes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Welford, A. T. (1952). The “psychological refractory period” and the timing of high speed performance: A review and a theory. British Journal of Psychology, 43, 2–19.Google Scholar