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Dividing Attention Between Tasks: Testing Whether Explicit Payoff Functions Elicit Optimal Dual-Task Performance

Farmer, GD; Janssen, CP; Nguyen, AT; Brumby, DP; (2017) Dividing Attention Between Tasks: Testing Whether Explicit Payoff Functions Elicit Optimal Dual-Task Performance. Cognitive Science 10.1111/cogs.12513. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

We test people's ability to optimize performance across two concurrent tasks. Participants performed a number entry task while controlling a randomly moving cursor with a joystick. Participants received explicit feedback on their performance on these tasks in the form of a single combined score. This payoff function was varied between conditions to change the value of one task relative to the other. We found that participants adapted their strategy for interleaving the two tasks, by varying how long they spent on one task before switching to the other, in order to achieve the near maximum payoff available in each condition. In a second experiment, we show that this behavior is learned quickly (within 2-3 min over several discrete trials) and remained stable for as long as the payoff function did not change. The results of this work show that people are adaptive and flexible in how they prioritize and allocate attention in a dual-task setting. However, it also demonstrates some of the limits regarding people's ability to optimize payoff functions.

Type: Article
Title: Dividing Attention Between Tasks: Testing Whether Explicit Payoff Functions Elicit Optimal Dual-Task Performance
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/cogs.12513
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12513
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Cognitive Science published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Cognitive Science Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Cognitive control, Multitasking, Optimization, Rational behavior, Task interleaving, Time allocation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > UCL Interaction Centre
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1556309
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