Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

STUDENT ID: 10579399

Performing dual task is a difficult attentional process. However dual task across modality is a little easier than within modality. Sex is not a determinant of how well one will perform in a dual task. Independent group experimental design was used to analyze sex and modality effects in divided attention task. Level 400 psychology students of university of Ghana were the participants used in the study. Twenty-five study lists was presented to participants using a laptop and they had to recall 50 recall list with 25 being homophones. Participants performed better in single tasks and across modality than within modality.
The subject matter of cognition deals with how people acquire, store, transform, use, and communicate information. (Neisser, 1967). Our attentional processes allow us to mentally focus on certain things in the environment and to also turn out others. Most research studies in attention are concerned with the availability of mental resources and their limitations. The amount of attention required at any given time depends solely on how complex the situation you find yourself in is. Maltin (1983) argued that attention is “the concentration and focusing of mental effort – a focus that is selective, shift able and divisible”. In a situation where we try to perform two tasks simultaneously attention must be divided between these two tasks and they are done worse than when they are performed alone.
The interest of Cognitive psychologist in attention and memory effect in multitask conditions dates back to time (Pashler, 1998). Researches done in the past has shown that dual- task cognitive processing often negatively affects performance on one or both of the tasks being performed (Pasher, 1998). The outcome of dual processing on cognitive performance is expected to be particularly noticed when the two tasks have to compete for similar resources (Baddeley 1966; Navon and Miller 1987). Prior studies done by Treisman and Davies (1973) and Duncan, Martens, and Ward (1973) showed that interference was greater when two visual tasks were done together than when either visual task was combined with either auditory task. Early studies have shown that our ability to multitask depends on how difficult the task is and how well practiced we are at the task. Allport et al. (1972) conducted a study in divided attention where they asked subjects to learn a set of words while shadowing a spoken message. They found that the words could be learned when they were presented visually but not when they were presented as spoken words. However, if messages were sufficiently different then both could be attended to. Brown et al. (1969) stated that one challenge driver’s face comes from diverting their spatial attention from visual to auditory. This view has however received less interest because other studies show that different attentional resources are allocated for performing both auditory and visual task which is the most influential work done on human performance (e.g., Wickens, 1980, 1992).In view of this drivers should not experience any difficulty in dividing their attention between auditory task and visual task because separate attentional resources control the processing of auditory and visual information. Even though most of the early works supported this idea,(e.g., Treisman ;Davies, 1973), a more recent behavioral perspective have criticize this view, demonstrating the existence of across modality attentional link involving visual and auditory task tasks in a lot of dual performance tasks. The amount of resources allocated to a task is flexible; sometimes we are more alert and excited to complete a task than at other times.
Wickens and Liu (1988) in their studies have shown that most of the works of the early studies had issues with their interpretation because of methodological confounds in their design. For instance, Treisman and Davies (1973) made no effort to control eye position in their study and it appears that this affected their results indicating the existence of modality-specific resources.
In other related studies comparing boys and girls in recall, girls recalled better than boys, however, Shapiro and Moely (1971) found no sex differences in recall. Watson (1969) found that girls learned under auditory reinforcement but not visual, while boys learned under visual reinforcement but not auditory. This is an evidence that modality difference can be sex dependent.
Aims of Study
1. To examine dual task effect within and across modalities
2. To examine gender related difference on dual task.
Statement of Hypothesis
H1. In performing divided attention task across modalities, single task group(control) will perform significantly better than dual task across modality.
H2. Females will perform better in audio/visual (Exp grp 1) task across modalities than males.
H3. Performance will be better in Visual/audio group (Exp grp 1) than Visual/visual group (Exp grp 2)
Operational Definitions
Divided attention: paying attention to two tasks performed simultaneously.
Modality effect: recall of words presented in either visual format or audio format.
Visual mode: words in imagery form
Auditory mode: word participants listen to.
Dual task: audio or visual task preformed at the same time.
Population and Sample
A total of 210 participants were randomly selected to partake in the experiment. 70 in each of the three conditions. Participants were level 400 undergraduate students of University of Ghana from the psychology department. The experiment comprises of 87 males and 123 females with 31 males,31males,25 males in control group, experimental group 1 and experimental group 2 respectively. In the same order 39 females, 39 females and 45 females were also randomly assigned to control group, experimental group 1 and experimental group 2 respectively.
Apparatus and Material
Participants were given a study list of 25 randomly generated English words and had a recall list of 50 words with half of them masking the words that is homophones. A listen comprehension which was a passage taken from the book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achibe. The passage was recorded in an audio format and participants listen through headphones. 25 reading fluency tasks was also visually presented using Microsoft Power point. A laptop was used to project all tasks that was in visual mode. A scoring sheet was used to record the responses of participants using a pen.
Design and Procedure
The design used for the experiment was an Independent group experimental design (between participants) with 3 independent randomized groups performing 3 different tasks. Each group was assigned a single task condition. Participants in the control group were presented with 25 randomly generated English words as the study lists which was visually presented within a time interval of one word per 1s; afterwards participants had 50 list which was also within 2 s per word. The 50-recall list comprises of 25 homonyms and the participants were to determine which of them was part of the study lists. Participants in the experimental group 1 performed listening comprehension task alongside learning of the 25-study list. The listening comprehension task was a paragraph passage taken from the book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achibe. The passage was an audio recording played and listened to by the subject at the same time as he learned the study words. Participants had to respond to 10 simple questions from the passage after the multitask. It was used as a rehearsal prevention task. The last set of participants were in the experimental group 2, they had the reading fluency task. The study list of 25 were visually presented using Microsoft Power point, at the same time as the words were projected, 25 simple yes and no questions were also projected on the other half of the computer screen. At the end of the projection, the subject responded to the 25 Yes and No questions, which represented a distraction or rehearsal prevention. After that the participants recalled the study list. The dependent variable included the divided attention and the independent variable was the sex and modality effects. Responds of participants were recorded using the scoring sheet.
Scoring of Data
The inter-stimulus interval for presentation was one word per second and recall was one word per two seconds. The 50-recall list was projected one after the other and the subject had to
respond yes and no if any of the recall words was part of the study list (source memory). The experimenter recorded the responses which was similar for all groups. Correct responses were marked over 25.
The data was prepared after collection for further analysis. Two-way ANOVA in SPSS version 23, was used to analyze the research hypotheses.
Table 1 shows the presentation of the mean scores and standard deviation of the 3 experimental group of 210 total participants with 70 subjects in each condition. The mean and standard deviation are as follows: Mean and standard deviation males of CG (M=17.77, SD=3.23), males of EG1 13.06(3.78), males of EG2 13.32(4.95), females of the control group 18.36(3.42), females of EG1 11.15(4.33), females of EG214.58(4.64), total for CG 18.100(3.33), total of EG1 12.00(4.17), total of EG2 14.12(4.76) and a total for the 210 participant 14.74(4.83)

Table 1
Descriptive Statistics

Groups Males Females Total
n M SD N M SD n M SD
Control Group 31 17.77 3.23 39 18.36 3.42 70 18.10 3.33
EG1 31 13.02 3.78 39 11.15 4.33 70 12.00 4.17
EG2 25 13.32 4.95 45 14.58 4.64 70 14.13 4.76
Total 87 14.82 4.51 123 14.69 5.06 210 14.74 4.83

The Two–Way Anova table analyzes the effect of the independent variable which is sex and modality on the dependent variable which is divided attention. The main effect between sex and divided attention was not statistically significant, F= .002(1,204), p=.97. There was a statically significant main effect for modality on divided attention, F= 38.11(2,204), p=.00. There was no statistically significant interaction effect between sex and modality, F=2.80(2, 204), p=.06.

Table 2
Source Type III Sum of Squares df MS F Sig.
Intercept 43747.460 1 43747.460 2.599E3 .000
Sex .026 1 .026 .002 .969
Modality 1282.865 2 641.433 38.108 .000
Sex * Modality 94.241 2 47.120 2.799 .063
Error 3433.759 204 16.832

In Figure 1 it is showed that females in the CG performed better than males. Males in the EG1 also performed better than the females and females in the EG2 also performed better than males. Therefore, there was a significant difference in performance among the sex of the various condition.

The aim of these study was to examine dual task effect within and across modalities and to also examine gender related differences on dual task. Findings from the study supported the hypothesis that single task group will perform better than dual task group across modality. This finding confirms previous studies where subjects performed better in visually presented words than when words were presented as spoken words. (Allport et al ,1972). This also proves how easy it is to perform better in single task than in dual task. The second hypothesis that females will perform significantly better in across modality task than males was however not supported as there was no gender difference found. Results from the study also confirm the hypothesis that performance will be better in Visual/audio group than Visual/Visual group. This finding confirms Treisman and Davies (1973) and Duncan, Martens, and Ward (1973) showing that performing across modality task is much easier than performing within modality task. The findings also showed that there was no significant difference of sex on dual task performance. This confirms Shapiro and Moely (1971) and Marx (1972) study that found evidence of no sex differences in recall. Follow-up studies can however be done to examine why there’s no interaction effects of sex and modality.

The result of the study reviewed that, performing single task is much easier than dual task because the amount of resource that would have to be allocated is not as much as performing dual task. However, across modality tasks are easily performed than within modality tasks. Also there is no gender difference between sexes in the performance of dual task. Allocating resources to task depends on how complex the task is and with continuous practice performing such tasks become automatic.
Environmental factors is one limitation that affected the study, due to time restrictions subjects were not tested at the same time. The study started in the morning and ended in the afternoon. Many studies have shown that most people are at their mental peak in the morning and this can affect the outcome of the study as those who came in the morning might performed better than those in the afternoon.
Another limitation relating to the study is individual variability, age, gender and social class can be held constant but factors such as intelligence, emotive quotient and every other personality construct can influence the data.

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