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Keywords:

  • Multitasking;
  • Performance Operating Characteristic;
  • Cognitively Bounded Rational Analysis;
  • Cognitive modeling;
  • Performance trade-offs

Abstract

We report the results of a dual-task study in which participants performed a tracking and typing task under various experimental conditions. An objective payoff function was used to provide explicit feedback on how participants should trade off performance between the tasks. Results show that participants’ dual-task interleaving strategy was sensitive to changes in the difficulty of the tracking task and resulted in differences in overall task performance. To test the hypothesis that people select strategies that maximize payoff, a Cognitively Bounded Rational Analysis model was developed. This analysis evaluated a variety of dual-task interleaving strategies to identify the optimal strategy for maximizing payoff in each condition. The model predicts that the region of optimum performance is different between experimental conditions. The correspondence between human data and the prediction of the optimal strategy is found to be remarkably high across a number of performance measures. This suggests that participants were honing their behavior to maximize payoff. Limitations are discussed.