Cognitive Underpinnings of Multitask Performance


Multitasking is a typical feature of many situations both in everyday life, for example listening to a radio program while preparing a meal, and in work contexts, for example listening to the questions of a customer while searching for her files on the computer. However, strong temporal overlap of critical mental sub-processes during task performance can produce dual-task interference, such as cross-talk between task-specific information. We investigate dual-task interference on several levels

  • Functional characterisation of cognitive bottlenecks in multitasking
  • Visual short-term memory in dual tasks
  • Inertia of mental task set in dual tasks
  • Verbal self-instruction in dual tasks
  • Involuntary priming of action across tasks, so-called cross-talk
  • Task-dependent coding of actions in dual tasks

The aim of this research is to achieve a better knowledge of the functional mechanisms underlying multitask performance. Based on this knowledge, we seek to explore practical implications for making mental work processes more efficient.

Selected references

Koch, I. (2008). Mechanismen der Interferenz in Doppelaufgaben [Mechanisms of dual - task interference]. Psychologische Rundschau, 59, 24-32. (Review)

Huestegge, L., & Koch, I. (2013). Constraints in task-set control: Modality dominance patterns among effector systems. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142, 633-637.

Huestegge, L., Pieczykolan, A., & Koch, I. (2014). Talking while looking: On the modularity of output systems. Cognitive Psychology, 73, 72-91.

Koch, I. (2009). The role of crosstalk in dual-task performance: Evidence from manipulating response-set overlap. Psychological Research, 73, 417-424.

Koch, I., & Rumiati, R. I. (2006). Task-set inertia and memory - consolidation bottleneck in dual tasks. Psychological Research, 70, 448-458.

Koch, I. & Prinz, W. (2002). Process interference and code overlap in dual-task performance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 28, 192-201.

Schuch, S. & Koch, I. (2004). The costs of changing the representation of action: Response repetition and response-response compatibility in dual tasks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 30, 566-582.