Electrophysiological examination of response-related interference while dual-tasking: is it motoric or attentional?


Psychological Science

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The possibility that interference between motor responses contributes to dual-task costs has long been neglected, yet is supported by several recent studies. There are two competing hypotheses regarding this response-related interference. The motor-bottleneck hypothesis asserts that the motor stage of Task 1 triggers a refractory period that delays the motor stage of Task 2. The response-monitoring hypothesis asserts that monitoring of the Task-1 motor response delays the response-selection stage of Task 2. Both hypotheses predict lengthening of Task-2 response time (RT2) when Task 1 requires motor processing relative to when it does not. However, they assume different loci for the response-related bottleneck, and therefore make different predictions regarding (a) the interaction between Task-1 motor requirement and the Task-2 difficulty effect as measured by RT2 and (b) the premotoric durations and motoric durations of Task 2 as measured by lateralized readiness potentials (LRPs). To test these predictions, we conducted two experiments manipulating the Task-1 motor requirement (Go vs. NoGo) and Task-2 response-selection difficulty, as well as the stimulus-onset asynchrony (SOA). Task-1 motor processing significantly lengthened RT2, suggesting response-related interference. Importantly, the Task-1 motor response reduced the Task-2 difficulty effect at the short SOA, indicating postponement of the Task-2 motor stage, consistent with the motor-bottleneck hypothesis. Further consistent with the motor-bottleneck hypothesis, the Task-2 LRP indicated a consistent premotoric duration of Task 2 regardless of Task-1 motor requirement. These results are difficult to reconcile with the response-monitoring hypotheses, which places the response-related bottleneck before the response-selection stage of Task 2. The results also have important implications regarding use of locus-of-slack logic in PRP studies.

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Psychological research





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