This study sought to gain information about gender differences and modality effects in divided attention tasks among level 400 undergraduate students of the University of Ghana. The sample size comprised of 210 students; 123 females and 87 males, randomly assigned. 70 students each to one control and two experimental groups. The control group performed a single task of studying a list of 25 words and later asked to recall. Participants in EG 1 were presented with the study list and simultaneously made to listen to a passage (across modality) whereas those in EG2 performed a within modality task of 2 visual tasks thus a visual presentation of the study list and 25 questions. The results were analysed with a 2-way ANOVA, descriptive table and LSD table.
Cognition is keen to psychologists and even to others outside the field of psychology, “it refers to mentally processing information” (Coon, 2001). The rather simple word embodies a great deal when it comes to internal mental processes, one of such which is still of major interest to psychologists at large is the field of attention. Attention refers to the concentration and focusing of mental effort; a focus that is selective, shiftable and divisible. (Maltin,1983). In much simpler words attention posits the ability to commit mental resources to a specific task while suppressing competing stimuli (information from the environment). Attention should not only be thought of as one task but one that can be easily split if need be to handle two tasks at a time. An individual is said to be experiencing divided attention when he can successfully perform multiple tasks at a go. Consider riding a bicycle alongside an old friend and engaging in a series of conversation, your ability to talk with that old friend while riding the bicycle is what is termed divided attention.
Daniel Kahneman attempted to explain divided attention in 1973 by proposing the Capacity Model of Attention. According to Kahneman (1973), the human mind is finite in terms of the availability of psychological resources and so at any particular point in time there is limited amount of attentional capacity apportioned to the many tasks that we face. He made mention of the fact that these tasks often place special demands on attentional capacity. A task that demands a relatively intense concentration apportions little or no capacity for other tasks. To some extent the number of tasks a person may be capable of attending may be dependent on the capacity the task demands. Kahneman then proposed the “allocation policy”, which explained that based on the capacity of cognitive resources available and capacity of tasks, a central processor is tasked with apportioning resources to tasks in relation to capacity. Also, he believed that this central processor which he called allocation policy aids in evaluating the demands made by each task and adjusting attention accordingly. Typically, if an individual while driving on a high way decides to listen to music at the highest volume or tone, it is believed that such a person’s ability to concentrate on the driving (which might demand more attention) and at the same time listening to loud music will be affected since both tasks will put stress on the person’s resource capacity which can cost him his life.
Allport (1980) was also of the view that interference occurs when similar task compete for the same processing mechanism and that dissimilar tasks do not create the same level of mutual interference, thus the individual can accommodate both.
Paivio (1986) in his dual-coding theory proposed that information processing is a dual affair and that visual and verbal (auditory) are processed independently and along different channels in the mind. Both visual and auditory systems are used in the recall of information either individually or simultaneously. Paivio believed that the recall of auditory information is better as compared to the recall of visual information when information is presented simultaneously.
Modality effect is a term used in describing the improved recall of final list of items or words that are presented verbally (audio) in comparison with a visual representation. Thus, individuals either males alone or both sexes can be given words projected on a screen(visual) which are known as the reading list and then will be given a recall list within which they are required to identify earlier words encountered in the reading list. Their performance in the recall task will be compared to other individuals who listened to an audio (verbal) message or words and then assessed.
Early studies on attention begun in the 19th century by William James in his work “The Principles of Psychology” (1890). He defined attention as the taking of possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Colin Cherry (1953) is said to have laid the foundation for the modern study of attention. Cherry proposed the Cocktail Party Phenomenon which described how people respond when confronted with several simultaneous conversations as they are at a party or any social gathering. He posited that people are either able to attend one of several stream of information or more than one stream of information at a time. Also, one’s ability at a party to focus on other information besides the person’s conversation with another person is dependent on the relevance of such information to the person (e.g. the person’s name).
In an article published in the journal of physical education (Maringa, 2016) on “Influences of Gender on attention and learning of motor skills among boys and girls, seventy- four 74 children participated. 36 of them were boys while 38 were girls with a mean age of 8, o3 years. The task required participants to ride a Pedalo without support. The participants were put into groups, three for each sex; Proximal External Focus (FP), Distal External Focus (FD) and Control(C). The findings indicated that, in acquisition phase, boys outperformed girls. In transfer’s tests, only T2 showed a significant difference, with the better performance of boys and for the focus of attention, the distant external focus was higher than the control group in both transfers tests. It concluded that directing the focus of attention externally, at a greater distance from the body enhances the learning of boys.
In a related study on divided attention, Gaspelin, Ruthruff & Pashler 2013 sort to investigate whether divided attention during retrieval practice can constitute a desirable difficulty. Using two initial study phases and one test phase with Swahili-English word pairs (e.g. Vuvi-Snake), they manipulated whether items were tested again under full or divided attention. Two days later, participants were brought back for a final cued-recall test (e.g. vuvi-?). Across three experiments (combined N=122), there was no evidence that dividing attention while practicing retrieval enhances memory retention.
Pashler Harold conducted a study in 1990 titled: “Do response modality effects support multiprocessor models of divided attention?” Many studies do not take into consideration the order in which stimuli are presented in dual-task despite almost all of such studies accepting that dual-task effect is minimized when tasks demanding different types of responses (e.g., vocal and manual) are put together. 33 undergraduates partook in experiments 1 and 2, the order in which variable stimulus were presented increased interference between 2 manual tasks, whereas interference between a manual and a vocal task was only slightly made worse. However, central interference lingered even with the manual /vocal combination. Experiment 3 was conducted with 12 undergraduates, it demonstrated that inter-task intrusion errors could be provoked with speed stress. In all, the results indicate that dual-task interference can be powerfully modulated by response similarity. The results means different modality tasks (visual-manual) will provide better results than the same modality task (visual-visual only).
Another study conducted by Hollman J.H, Youdas, J.W., and Lanzino, D.J in 2011 titled “Gender differences in dual task gait performance in older adults” sought to determine as to whether gait performance differed in older men and woman while dual task walking. 44 healthy adults consisting of 20 men and 24 women aged 65 years or older partook in this study. Participants walked under normal and dual task (backward spelling and walking) conditions at a speed of their convenience. The results indicated that during dual task walking men walked with greater variability than women, although both groups decreased in gait speed and variability in gait speed. In all, older men from the study performed better in the dual task gait than females.
Aims of the study
The general objective of the research is to assess the sex and modality effects in divided attention task among students. The specific objectives are as follows:
a. To examine dual task effects within and across modalities.
b. To examine gender related difference on dual task.
Statement of hypothesis
H1. Females will perform significantly better in (Exp grp 1) across modality task than males.
H2. Single task group (control) will perform better than dual task across modality
H3. Single task group (control) will perform better than dual task within modality group Operational definitions
Single task; participants who performed only one visual task
Dual task; this involves the performance of two tasks either two visual tasks or a visual and an auditory task performed simultaneously.
Across modality; this is the performance of both visual and auditory task.
Within modality; this is the performance of two visual tasks simultaneously.
Modality effects; Performance depends on how items of visual and auditory mode were presented.
The design was an Independent group experimental design (between-subject) with 3 independent randomized groups performing 3 different tasks. Each group was assigned a single task condition.
Two sets of list of words are provided.
a. Study list (source memory) (25 randomly generated English words).
b. Recall list (50 words. Half of the words were masking words – homophones).
The population comprised of level 400 Psychology students of Legon Campus and City campus and out of the population a sample of 140 students willingly participated in the study. 70 students were assigned to Control Group (CG),70 were assigned to the Experimental Group 1 (EG 1) and another 70 assigned to Experimental Group 2 (EG 2). An overall of 87 males and 123 females were sampled.
Equipment’s/materials used for the study
The materials used in the experiment comprised; 3 Laptops, one for each group, Headset for listening comprehension task, Scoring sheets, Source memory list (25), Recall list (50), Recorded comprehension task and 25 simple yes and no questions.
INDEPENDENT GROUPS FOR THE EXPERIMENT
Control Group Single task condition (visual)
25 list of words (study list) were presented through projection. Inter stimulus interval is one word per second. Immediately after the presentation, 25 homonyms were added to the source list randomly and the subject was to determine which of them was part of the study list. The experimenter scored the responses. Thereafter the 50 Recall list was presented at one word per 2 sec (ISI) and participant was tasked to identify words that were originally in the study list. The mode of scoring was to write down words in the study list.
Experimental Group 1 (Across Modality Condition – visual and audio task)
In this group the same task of the Control Group was conducted, and at the same time participants listened to a recorded conversation (auditory task). This recorded conversation was a listening comprehension carried out simultaneously with learning of the 25 study list. The passage was a paragraph taken from the book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achibe. After the multitask, the subject responded to 10 simple questions from the passage (used here as rehearsal prevention) and scores taken by the experimenter