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Disentangling stimulus and response compatibility as potential sources of backward crosstalk

Rieger, Tobias; Miller, Jeff

In two experiments (N= 60 each), we investigated the locus of backward crosstalk effects in dual tasking. Specifically, we embedded the typical flanker task within a dual-task paradigm by assigning stimulus-response (S-R) rules to the flankers. In Experiment 1, participants were instructed to first respond to the center letter and only respond to the flanker if the center was a no-go stimulus (i.e., prioritized processing paradigm). Mapping condition was varied between-subjects to be either matched (i.e., same S-R rule for flankers as for center letters), reversed (i.e., opposite S-R rule for flankers), or neutral (i.e., different letters for flankers with separate S-R rules). The results indicated that the backward crosstalk effect was mainly driven by a stimulus-based compatibility, as indicated by a significant S2−R1 compatibility effect in the matched and reversed conditions, with little change in this effect between the matched and reversed conditions. Experiment 2 replicated and extended these findings to a psychological refractory period paradigm. The present findings suggest that in the matched and reversed conditions, there was only one S-R rule active at a time. A plethora of everyday life situations involves having more than one task at hand (i.e., multitasking; Koch, Poljac, Müller, & Kiesel, 2018). One special case of multitasking situations is having to work on two tasks simultaneously (i.e., dual tasking). In a laboratory setting, participants in dual-task situations are often required to respond to two tasks in rapid succession and the general finding is that performance for both tasks suffers compared to a single-task situation (Pashler, 1984; 1994; Tombu & Jolicoeur, 2004), even when only one overt response per trial is required and the other task requires no response (Miller & Durst, 2014; 2015). Another well-documented finding is that when the second task (T2) characteristics (e.g., stimuli or responses) are incompatible with the characteristics of the first task (T1), this typically leads to interference, and is often termed a backward crosstalk effect. In dual-tasking studies, it has often been shown that characteristics of T2 can influence first task performance (e.g., Caessens, Hommel, Reynvoet, & Vandergoten, 2004; Ellenbogen & Meiran, 2008; Hommel, 1998; Huestegge, Pieczykolan, & Janczyk, 2018; Janczyk, Renas, & Durst, 2018; Ko & Miller, 2014; Lien & Proctor, 2000; Lien, Ruthruff, Hsieh, & Yu, 2007; Logan & Schulkind, 2000; Miller, 2006; Miller & Durst, 2015; Navon & Miller, 1987).
Published in: Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, 10.3758/s13414-020-02039-6, Springer