A second experiment, in which students had to divide their attention between studying word lists and completing tone-monitoring tasks that varied in difficulty, showed a similar pattern of results. Participants performed worse when their attention was divided, but they were still able to selectively remember the high-value words.
The effects of divided attention on old/new item recognition and source memory for modality were investigated. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in which they saw pictures and heard words representing different common nouns either simultaneously, separately with full attention or separately with attention divided by an unrelated distracting task. As hypothesized, significant degradation of both item and source memory was observed in the divided attention condition. Contrary to predictions, however, no decline in performance was seen in the simultaneous condition relative to the non-divided attention condition. Results of the current experiment suggest that both item and source in the auditory and visual modalities may be processed passively through somewhat distinct pathways. This minimizes interference between seen and heard stimuli when presented together. However, a demanding secondary task can disrupt processing of both item and source for stimuli in either modality. Several modifications to the current experiment are proposed to further investigate why effects are seen in the divided attention condition but not in the simultaneous condition.
Thinker: Perceptual Processes: Divided Attention Task
In summary, the current experiment was designed to evaluate four hypotheses related to the effect of divided attention on source memory. First, Cinel et al (2002) showed that illusory conjunctions, presumed to be the result of source monitoring errors, occur with visual and tactile stimuli. Can this phenomenon be generalized to other pairs of modalities — in this case, visual and auditory? We could reason that participants would experience some source confusion between auditory and visual modalities, since these seem to be about as distinctive from one another as vision and touch. However, working memory theory states that we have specialized modules in working memory – the visuospatial sketchpad and the phonological loop – to handle input from these particular modalities. This should make the simultaneous processing of information in these two modalities more efficient, and serve to keep the information distinct. Therefore, I expected some source confusion between visual and auditory information in the simultaneous condition (S), though not necessarily as much as there would be between visual and tactile information. As a result, I hypothesized that participants in the S condition wouldl exhibit more source confusion (and thus show worse performance on the source monitoring task, but not necessarily item recognition) than participants in the U condition.
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A number of additional analyses could be performed on data that was collected. First, incorrect responses were not analyzed to determine the source of the errors. This would be useful to determine, for example, whether errors in the simultaneous condition were more likely to reflect cross-modal confusion (i.e., a SEEN response for a heard item, and vice versa). Analysis of incorrect responses could also tell us whether confusion between old and new items was more likely to occur with divided attention than in the other conditions. We might also ask whether seen or heard items were more likely to be mistaken as new across the three conditions.
Two Classes in America, Divided by ‘I Do’ - The New York Times
Another significant finding in this experiment was that source monitoring was significantly impacted in D, relative to both S and U. A possible explanation for this result is that the secondary task required an active response while the coding of the stimuli was passive. Therefore, participants may have allocated most of their attention to the secondary task, since it was more salient and demanding. This possibility is suggested anecdotally by unsolicited comments made by participants on the questionnaire. 10 participants in the D condition mentioned that they were focusing on the secondary task and did not pay much attention to one or both types of stimuli. By contrast, only two participants in each of the S and U conditions mentioned not paying adequate attention to the stimuli. In order to reduce the salience of the secondary tasks, they could be made less active. For example, in a future experiment, we might require participants to count the number of odd numbers or faces presented rather than click the mouse button. In the current design, it would be useful to measure and compare performance on the secondary tasks in the D condition to performance on these tasks in isolation, to see whether secondary task performance was equally impacted by divided attention, or whether only performance on the primary task was affected. This would tell us whether participants were choosing to allocate more of their attention to the secondary task due to its salience.