NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ860080
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Oct
Pages: 17
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 43
ISSN: ISSN-0096-1523
How Strategic Is the Central Bottleneck: Can It Be Overcome by Trying Harder?
Ruthruff, Eric; Johnston, James C.; Remington, Roger W.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, v35 n5 p1368-1384 Oct 2009
Recent dual-task studies suggest that a bottleneck prevents central mental operations from working on more than one task at a time, especially at relatively low practice levels. It remains highly controversial, however, whether this bottleneck is structural (inherent to human cognitive architecture) or merely a strategic choice. If the strategic hypothesis is testable, it ought to predict that, under sufficiently strong incentives, people could choose to bypass the bottleneck and perform both tasks in parallel. Because the incentives for parallel processing in previous studies have been modest, the authors introduced a novel dual-task paradigm with much greater incentives, induced by strict time deadlines for each task. With this paradigm, bottleneck delays would cause participants to frequently miss the time deadline or make errors, triggering immediate negative consequences (failure feedback). Nevertheless, participants had little success performing central operations in parallel; severe dual-task performance costs were observed, even with relatively easy tasks. These results greatly strengthen the case that the central bottleneck reflects a structural limitation that, at least at modest practice levels, cannot be avoided merely by trying harder. (Contains 2 tables, 2 footnotes, and 8 figures.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A