Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Divided Attention

  • Anna MacKay-BrandtEmail author
  • Tina Trudel
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1294


Dual task


A situation in which the individual’s goal is to divide attention among two (or more) tasks.

Historical Background

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...

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References and Readings

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric ResearchOrangeburgUSA
  2. 2.Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Northeast Evaluation Specialists, PLLCDoverUSA