2021-04-21Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1007/s00426-021-01517-2
The role of working memory for task-order coordination in dual-task situations
Dual-task (DT) situations require task-order coordination processes that schedule the processing of two temporally overlapping tasks. Theories on task-order coordination suggest that these processes rely on order representations that are actively maintained and processed in working memory (WM). Preliminary evidence for this assumption stems from DT situations with variable task order, where repeating task order relative to the preceding trials results in improved performance compared to changing task order, indicating the processing of task-order information in WM between two succeeding trials. We directly tested this assumption by varying WM load during a DT with variable task order. In Experiment 1, WM load was manipulated by varying the number of stimulus–response mappings of the component tasks. In Experiment 2A, WM load was increased by embedding an additional WM updating task in the applied DT. In both experiments, the performance benefit for trials with repeated relative to trials with changed task order was reduced under high compared to low WM load. These results confirm our assumption that the processing of the task-order information relies on WM resources. In Experiment 2B, we tested whether the results of Experiment 2A can be attributed to introducing an additional task per se rather than to increased WM load by introducing an additional task with a low WM load. Importantly, in this experiment, the processing of order information was not affected. In sum, the results of the three experiments indicate that task-order coordination relies on order information which is maintained in an accessible state in WM during DT processing.
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