The University of Newcastle, Australia

Task uncertainty can account for mixing and switch costs in task-switching

Friday, 26 June 2015

Our everyday world is bubbling with information; from commuter timetables and text messages to advertisements and infotainment. How do our brains sieve through this information and select where to allocate precious cognitive resources?

Brain highlight in Xray

PhD students in the School of Psychology, Patrick Cooper and Jaime Rennie, and Honours student, Paul Garrett, are certain that uncertainty plays an important part. In this paper, they mathematically quantified the amount of uncertainty present in different stimuli and examined whether this affected the resources needed to process these stimuli. They then applied this algorithm to many different studies. Regardless of the source of uncertainty, similar levels of equivocation affected performance in the same way, with more 'uncertain' stimuli requiring more cognitive resources. These findings suggest that a simple and parsimonious process of resolution of uncertainty may help explain how the brain allocates cognitive resources.

Patrick S. Cooper, Paul M. Garrett, Jaime L. Rennie & Frini Karayanidis (2015). Task uncertainty can account for mixing and switch costs in task-switching. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0131556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131556
The article is published in the open access journal PlosONE, and can be accessed directly here:
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