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Multitasking abilities – Are computerised laboratory tasks predictive of real-world tasks?

Multitasking, i.e. the concurrent performance of two or more tasks, has been investigated in many different domains. In Cognitive Psychology, experimental paradigms such as the task switching paradigm or the dual-task paradigm of the Psychological Refractory Period (PRP) are the most widely used multitasking paradigms. These paradigms are highly controlled computerised tests showing very robust behavioural costs for multitasking in terms of increased error rates and prolonged response times. On the other end of the spectrum of task complexity are real-life situations such as job performance or managing a household. Here, tasks are much less controlled, and the concurrent tasks vary all the time. Consequently, behavioural costs are much more difficult to assess. Furthermore, these real-life situations may incur not only behavioural costs, but also costs in form of perceived stress and job satisfaction. To maximise productivity, employers have a profound interest in assessing the multitasking abilities of their employees for jobs high in multitasking demands. However, the current literature suggests that the currently used tests are very simplistic and it is questionable whether they bear any true predictive value of the real-life multitasking abilities of a person. This project aims to bridge this apparent gap in the literature. The first main aspect is to find out whether there is a generic ‘multitasking-skill’ influencing virtually all types of multitasking situations, or whether the skills are subdivided into sets influencing only certain classes of multitasking. This can potentially be extended into the question whether there is a ‘multitasking nexus’ in the human brain, by using the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner part-owned by Brunel University London. Finally, the results of this project are planned to be used to develop more valid screening tools for job selection. 

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This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.