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Multitasking: task switching or task integration?


Multitasking is often presented as "task-switching," in which component tasks must be handled efficiently and separately. However, recent theories about the "chunking" of overlapping neural operations led me to hypothesize that, when given the opportunity, humans integrate overlapping neural operations rather than rely on task-switching. My study takes advantage of previous observations that the brain transfers its organizational strategies, or "cognitive control policies," between tasks, leading to performance impairments when a policy is transferred to a task situation it no longer applies to. I am comparing two subject groups: one which learns two tasks individually, and one which learns them together. I then compare performance on a novel version of one of the component tasks. If subjects with multitask experience show impaired performance on this block, relative to controls, it would suggest that multitasking required the development of a new control policy which is inapplicable to either component task alone. A future manipulation will compare two multitasking groups, one with opportunity for integration across tasks and one without, hopefully revealing more information about the nature of the control policies used to accommodate multitask performance.


Ford, Celia, and Bhandari, Apoorva, "Multitasking: task switching or task integration?" (2016). Summer Research Symposium. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • Summer Research Symposium

    Each year, Brown University showcases the research of its undergraduates at the Summer Research Symposium. More than half of the student-researchers are UTRA recipients, while others receive funding from a variety of Brown-administered and national programs and fellowships and go …