Research Topic

Multitasking: Executive Functioning in Dual-Task and Task Switching Situations

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Multitasking refers to performance of multiple tasks. The most prominent types of multitasking are situations including either temporal overlap of the execution of multiple tasks (i.e., dual tasking) or executing multiple tasks in varying sequences (i.e., task switching). In the literature, numerous attempts ...

Multitasking refers to performance of multiple tasks. The most prominent types of multitasking are situations including either temporal overlap of the execution of multiple tasks (i.e., dual tasking) or executing multiple tasks in varying sequences (i.e., task switching). In the literature, numerous attempts have aimed at theorizing about the specific characteristics of executive functions that control interference between simultaneously and/or sequentially active component of task-sets in these situations. However, these approaches have been rather vague regarding explanatory concepts (e.g., task-set inhibition, preparation, shielding, capacity limitation), widely lacking theories on detailed mechanisms and/ or empirical evidence for specific subcomponents. Consider the case of task switching: What do we know about shifting and maintenance of separable components of task-sets (at what level of description have task-set components been analyzed)? What processes are involved in resolving interference/competition between tasks? How plastic is task control and its subcomponents in response to age-related changes or treatments such as training, experience, or neuronal stimulation? In the area of dual-tasking, details about executive functioning involved in simultaneous task control are even scarcer and researchers just started to explore the underlying mechanistic details (and brain areas).

The present Research Topic aims at providing a coherent selection of contributions on the details of executive functioning in dual-task and task switching situations. Namely, contributions should specify these executive functions by focusing on (1) fractionating assumed mechanisms into constituent subcomponents, (2) their variations by age or in clinical subpopulations, and/ or (3) their plasticity as a response to practice and training. We assume that the use of well-controllable component tasks in dual tasks and task switching are best suited to produce precise insights into executive functions during multitasking. Contributions are invited, but not limited, from different areas of psychology, neuroscience, or movement science.


Keywords: multitasking, dual tasking, task switching, executive function, training, cognitive aging


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