Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Specificity of Learned Parallelism in Dual-Memory Retrieval

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Specificity of Learned Parallelism in Dual-Memory Retrieval

Article excerpt

Published online: 30 October 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract Retrieval of two responses from one visually presented cue occurs sequentially at the outset of dual-retrieval practice. Exclusively for subjects who adopt a mode of grouping (i.e., synchronizing) their response execution, however, reaction times after dual-retrieval practice indicate a shift to learned retrieval parallelism (e.g., Nino & Rickard, in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition , 29, 373-388, 2003). In the present study, we investigated how this learned parallelism is achieved and why it appears to occur only for subjects who group their responses. Two main accounts were considered: a task-level versus a cue-level account. The task-level account assumes that learned retrieval parallelism occurs at the level of the task as a whole and is not limited to practiced cues. Grouping response execution may thus promote a general shift to parallel retrieval following practice. The cue-level account states that learned retrieval parallelism is specific to practiced cues. This type of parallelism may result from cue-specific response chunking that occurs uniquely as a consequence of grouped response execution. The results of two experiments favored the second account and were best interpreted in terms of a structural bottleneck model.

Keywords Cued retrieval * Dual-retrieval practice * Chunked retrieval * Parallel retrieval

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Improved performance following dual-task practice has been observed for a variety of tasks, including simple choice reaction-time (RT) tasks (e.g., Hazeltine, Teague, & Ivry, 2002; Ruthruff, Van Selst, Johnston, & Remington, 2006; Strobach, Liepelt, Schubert, & Kiesel, 2012), two continuous tasks (e.g., Hirst, Spelke, Reaves, Caharack, &Neisser, 1980), two working memory updating tasks (e.g., Jaeggi, Buschkuehl, Jonides, & Perrig, 2008; Oberauer & Kliegl, 2004), and cued recall tasks (e.g., Nino & Rickard, 2003). Identification of the mechanisms that give rise to this improvement is important from the perspectives of dual-task performance models (Logan & Gordon, 2001; Pashler, 1994), models of the human cognitive architecture and its sequential versus parallel processing characteristics (Meyer & Kieras, 1997a; Townsend & Wenger, 2004), and theories of learning under dual-task conditions (Kramer, Larish, & Strayer, 1995; Nino & Rickard, 2003).

Liepelt, Strobach, Frensch, and Schubert (2011; Strobach, Frensch, Soutschek, & Schubert, 2012) have addressed this issue of improved dual-task performance for the case of two concurrently practiced choice RT tasks. In their study, subjects practiced two tasks in (1) either dual-task and single-task situations or (2) exclusively in single-task situations. The combined single-task and dual-task practice resulted in a dual-task learning effect, as indicated by more improvement in performance on the dual task than could be accounted for by improvement during single-task practice. Importantly, this learning effect was not specific to the choice tasks that were performed during the dual-task practice phase. Rather, it generalized to new stimuli and stimulus-response mapping rules. Liepelt et al. argued that dual-task learning in choice RT tasks takes the form of a generalizable improvement in task coordination, and more specifically, a decreased task switching delay in the context of continued sequential access to a central task processing bottleneck (Pashler, 1994; Schubert, 1999). Studies of extensive practice with simultaneous choice RT tasks favor the possibility of a central bottleneck that prevents parallel stimulus-response execution, is structural and stubborn (Ruthruffet al., 2006; Van Selst, Ruthruff, & Johnston, 1999) and perhaps even immutable (Anderson, Taatgen, & Byrne, 2005; Ruthruff, Johnston, Van Selst, Whitsell, & Remington, 2003; Schubert, 2008). …

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