The Multitasking Mind

The Multitasking Mind

by Dario D. Salvucci, Niels A. Taatgen
     
 

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Multitasking is all around us: the office worker interrupted by a phone call, the teenager texting while driving, the salesperson chatting while entering an order. When multitasking, the mind juggles all the many tasks we're doing this second, this hour, this week, and tries to perform them together-sometimes with great ease, sometimes with great difficulty. We

Overview

Multitasking is all around us: the office worker interrupted by a phone call, the teenager texting while driving, the salesperson chatting while entering an order. When multitasking, the mind juggles all the many tasks we're doing this second, this hour, this week, and tries to perform them together-sometimes with great ease, sometimes with great difficulty. We don't often stop to think about how exactly we accomplish these feats of multitasking great and small. How do we switch from one task to another? What types of multitasking are disruptive, and when are they most disruptive? And ultimately, how can we take advantage of the benefits of multitasking while alleviating its negative effects in our daily lives?

This book presents the theory of threaded cognition, a theory that aims to explain the multitasking mind. The theory states that multitasking behavior can be expressed as cognitive threads-independent streams of thought that weave through the mind's processing resources to produce multitasking behavior, and sometimes experience conflicts to produce multitasking interference. Grounded in the ACT-R cognitive architecture, threaded cognition incorporates computational representations and mechanisms used to simulate and predict multitasking behavior and performance.

The book describes the implications of threaded cognition theory across three traditionally disparate domains: concurrent multitasking (doing multiple tasks at once), sequential multitasking (interrupting and resuming tasks), and multitask skill acquisition (learning and practicing multiple tasks). The work stresses the importance of unifying basic and applied research by alternating between in-depth descriptions of basic research phenomena and broader treatments of phenomena in applied domains, such as driver distraction and human-computer interaction. The book also includes practical guidelines for designers of interactive systems intended for multitasking contexts.

Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Michael S. Goldsby, PhD, CCRP (Family Psychiatry of The Woodlands)
Description: The performance of multiple tasks at the same time is quite a remarkable feat for the mind to accomplish, and something that researchers have had an interest in studying for quite some time. This book presents a novel theory called "threaded cognition," which has its roots in the field of cognitive science. How the mind is able to perform multiple tasks at once is explored and the cognitive mechanisms responsible for multitasking behavior are revealed in this groundbreaking book.
Purpose: The authors state that the purpose of this book is to describe threaded cognition, its theoretical foundations, and its applications to empirical phenomena. Another, more subtle purpose is that the authors want to relate their new theory both to existing research and to day-to-day issues and questions of how and why we are able to multitask.
Audience: The book is written for a scholarly, scientific audience and is most suited for researchers and students in the areas of cognitive psychology, computer science, human factors and ergonomics, and artificial intelligence, as well as designers and users of interactive systems. It also is well suited for graduate coursework in clinical psychology and related fields.
Features: Advanced by two luminary scholars, threaded cognition theory is based in The Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational (ACT-R) cognitive architecture and describes three separate theoretical domains: concurrent multitasking, sequential multitasking, and multitask skill acquisition. Driving a car is an example of concurrent multitasking (lane changing, talking on the phone, watching the other cars, playing the radio, looking at GPS), while sequential multitasking involves stopping one task and starting another. The chapters devoted to multitasking skill acquisition examine the basic mechanisms of skill acquisition and how multitasking performance improves with practice. Each chapter features charts, graphs, and tables that help explain the concept. Although this book is written for a scientific audience, the material is presented in such a way that an inquisitive layperson would find this book understandable.
Assessment: This book brings a fresh, new theory to the forefront in the field of cognitive science. Threaded cognition is a theory based in rigorous scientific research and decades of professional literature that give solid support to the theory as a new paradigm for understanding the multitasking mind. Timely and relevant, this book gives educators, scholars, researchers and students a foundation to build upon. The authors have compiled a masterpiece of fresh thinking and presented a novel theory of threaded cognition which allows us to rethink the ways in which we understand the workings of the multitasking mind.
From the Publisher
With this book and their theory of threaded cognition, Salvucci and Taatgen have brought the promise of cognitive architectures to a new high point. In a highly accessible way, they show how one can take theories that have strong laboratory support and use them to make novel predictions about important real-world applications. One can read the book and go away with an understanding of how to better deal with the multitasking demands of everyday life.
—John Anderson, Carnegie Mellon University

How people do multiple tasks together, like driving and talking on the telephone, has been maddeningly difficult to understand and to engineer. Salvucci and Taatgen have cracked the problem with their theory of threaded cognition, yielding great insights for design. This book is a breakthrough.
—Stuart Card, Palo Alto Research Center

The Multitasking Mind is an excellent and timely review of the last decades of work on what we currently understand about multitasking, interruptions, task resumption and the effects of all of this on task performance. What really stands out about this book is its attempt to provide an overarching, unifying theory to help guide researchers and practitioners in an approachable wayEL I believe this book is an important checkpoint in our understanding of human cognitive multitasking and is a must-read for any researcher or designer faced with the task of designing for human interruptions, whatever the task.
—Mary Czerwinski, Microsoft

[The] writing is both engaging and of high scientific qualityEL The scientist, the engineer, and the intelligent layperson will all find this book to be a compelling read.
— Christopher Wickens

"This book brings a fresh, new theory to the forefront in the field of cognitive science. Threaded cognition is a theory based in rigorous scientific research and decades of professional literature that give solid support to the theory as a new paradigm for understanding the multitasking mind. Timely and relevant,
this book gives educators, scholars, researchers and students a foundation to build upon. The authors have compiled a masterpiece of fresh thinking and presented a novel theory of threaded cognition which allows us to rethink the ways in which we understand the workings of the multitasking mind." —Doody's

"Of course, The Multitasking Mind will be of high interest to all psychologists interested in multitasking and complex human performance, whether they work in universities or applied settings. I think it will come to be viewed as a landmark publication in the area, comparable to what Broadbent's (1958) book was in its time." — Susan E.F. Chipman, PsycCRITIQUES

Reviewer: Michael S. Goldsby, PhD, CCRP(Family Psychiatry of The Woodlands)
Description: The performance of multiple tasks at the same time is quite a remarkable feat for the mind to accomplish, and something that researchers have had an interest in studying for quite some time. This book presents a novel theory called "threaded cognition," which has its roots in the field of cognitive science. How the mind is able to perform multiple tasks at once is explored and the cognitive mechanisms responsible for multitasking behavior are revealed in this groundbreaking book.
Purpose: The authors state that the purpose of this book is to describe threaded cognition, its theoretical foundations, and its applications to empirical phenomena. Another, more subtle purpose is that the authors want to relate their new theory both to existing research and to day-to-day issues and questions of how and why we are able to multitask.
Audience: The book is written for a scholarly, scientific audience and is most suited for researchers and students in the areas of cognitive psychology, computer science, human factors and ergonomics, and artificial intelligence, as well as designers and users of interactive systems. It also is well suited for graduate coursework in clinical psychology and related fields.
Features: Advanced by two luminary scholars, threaded cognition theory is based in The Adaptive Control of Thought-Rational (ACT-R) cognitive architecture and describes three separate theoretical domains: concurrent multitasking, sequential multitasking, and multitask skill acquisition. Driving a car is an example of concurrent multitasking (lane changing, talking on the phone, watching the other cars, playing the radio, looking at GPS), while sequential multitasking involves stopping one task and starting another. The chapters devoted to multitasking skill acquisition examine the basic mechanisms of skill acquisition and how multitasking performance improves with practice. Each chapter features charts, graphs, and tables that help explain the concept. Although this book is written for a scientific audience, the material is presented in such a way that an inquisitive layperson would find this book understandable.
Assessment: This book brings a fresh, new theory to the forefront in the field of cognitive science. Threaded cognition is a theory based in rigorous scientific research and decades of professional literature that give solid support to the theory as a new paradigm for understanding the multitasking mind. Timely and relevant, this book gives educators, scholars, researchers and students a foundation to build upon. The authors have compiled a masterpiece of fresh thinking and presented a novel theory of threaded cognition which allows us to rethink the ways in which we understand the workings of the multitasking mind.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199733569
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
09/30/2010
Series:
Oxford Series on Cognitive Models and Architectures Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Dario D. Salvucci is an associate professor of computer science at Drexel University and holds a B.S.E. degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He has authored over 60 publications in the areas of cognitive science, human factors, and human-computer interaction, and has received several honors including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Niels A. Taatgen is a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Groningen. He holds degrees in computer science and psychology, and has published in the areas of psychology and cognitive science. Until recently, he worked as a research psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, collaborating with John Anderson and others on the ACT-R cognitive architecture project.

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