2012-09-11Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00075
The effect of task order predictability in audio-visual dual task performance: Just a central capacity limitation?
In classic Psychological-Refractory-Period (PRP) dual-task paradigms, decreasing stimulus onset asynchronies (SOA) between the two tasks typically lead to increasing reaction times (RT) to the second task and, when task order is non-predictable, to prolonged RTs to the first task. Traditionally, both RT effects have been advocated to originate exclusively from the dynamics of a central bottleneck. By focusing on two specific electroencephalographic brain responses directly linkable to perceptual or motor processing stages, respectively, the present study aimed to provide a more detailed picture as to the origin(s) of these behavioral PRP effects. In particular, we employed 2-alternative forced-choice (2AFC) tasks requiring participants to identify the pitch of a tone (high versus low) in the auditory, and the orientation of a target object (vertical versus horizontal) in the visual, task, with task order being either predictable or non-predictable. Our findings show that task order predictability (TOP) and inter-task SOA interactively determine the speed of (visual) perceptual processes (as indexed by the PCN timing) for both the first and the second task. By contrast, motor response execution times (as indexed by the LRP timing) are influenced independently by TOP for the first, and SOA for the second, task. Overall, this set of findings complements classical as well as advanced versions of the central bottleneck model by providing electrophysiological evidence for modulations of both perceptual and motor processing dynamics that, in summation with central capacity limitations, give rise to the behavioral PRP outcome.
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