Many people take pride in the fact that they can multitask. A study “Task Switching” conducted by Monsell concluded that multitasking, or switching between tasks actually costs us time. Our brain is complicated machinery, which requires a specific program for a specific task to be loaded in to our computer, the brain, to complete a task. Switching between tasks takes more time than repeating the same task. Monsell demonstrated that when presented with one task, our brain responds faster in completing the task, rather than switching between tasks.
In a task-switching experiment subjects are first pretrained on two or more simple tasks afforded by a set of stimuli. Each task requires attention to, and classification of, a different element or attribute of the stimulus or retrieval from memory or computation of a different property of the stimulus. (eg. , Monsell 2003) In the study the subjects were presented with a series of trials (eg. , Monsell 2003) and completed the task at hand on a random trial basis. The participants had to repeat the same task or switch between tasks to complete each trial.
By conducting these trials the researchers tried to examine performance or brain activation on and following trials when the task changes for evidence of extra processing demands that are associated with the need to reconfigure task-set (eg. , Monsell 2003) The study concluded our brain requires a “task-set reconfiguration” a sort of mental “gear changing” (eg. , Monsell 2003) In prospective this means that our brain loads a different program every time we need to complete a separate task.
When switching between tasks our brain goes between two different programs one for example for counting and one for reading, therefore costing us time to switch between these two tasks. In this experiment we tried to replicate the Monsell 2003 Task Switching experiment. 18 Participants took a brief task-switching test via program Revolution Maker©. Each trial was randomly assigned. The participants were presented with numbers one through nine and on each trial had to react to the number, to identify either its odd or even or if the magnitude was either less than 5 or more than 5.
We hypothesis that when individuals are engaged in a cognitive task there is a time cost that occurs when asked to switch between tasks as opposed to repeating tasks. Methods Participants: 18 undergraduate students from Brooklyn College participated in this study. Materials: A task switching experiment designed on the computer program Revolution Maker© Procedure: Participants were led to an isolated lab room were they participated in a task-switching experiment. They were involved in 2 tasks a magnitude test and an odd even task.
There was 100 randomly assigned trials 50% task-switch and 50% task-repeat that were completed by the participants. There were different type keys presented to the participants such as: z for an odd number, x for an even number, m for a number (>) than 5, and n for a number (<) than 5. The participants had to press the response keys for each number and the response keys remained on the screen trough out the duration of the trial. At the conclusion of the experiment reaction times (RT) were generated by the program, results were collected and calculated by experimenters.
Results In order to determine whether or not a difference exists in the time it takes to repeat the same task or switch between tasks a paired sample t-test was done. The results show that t(17) = -4. 247, p = . 001, there is a significant difference in the amount of time it takes to switch between tasks, than to repeat the same task, meaning that it does take longer to switch (M = 1499. 48) between tasks than it does to repeat the same task (M = 1304. 89) (See figure 1) Discussion In the end of the experiment we concluded that our hypothesis proved right.
It takes more time to complete a task when switching between tasks, rather than just repeating a task. Another way to conduct this experiment would be for example using the alphabet where we can have capital letters and small letters and instead of magnitude have the participants recognize either the letter is a vowel or consonant. This way we can recheck if the experiment would yield the same results. References Monsell, S (2003). Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Science, 7,134-140. Figure 1 [pic]