Bottleneck theory’s enlightenment of practice-influence on psychological refractory period

Seminar Paper, 2010
5 Pages, Grade: 1
Isabell Brankstein (Author)


Bottleneck theory's enlightenment of practice-influence on psychological refractory period

Stunning limiting mechanisms of the humans information processing, of perceiving abilities, working memory performance, sensomotoric reactions upon receiving point, can be classified as phenomenon, giving feedback about the humans assessment of reality. The psychological refractory period effect (PRP) is one of these phenomenon, representing the aspects of delayed reactions, two speed tasks are performed in rapid succession with resulting delay to the second task response (Craik, 1947, 1948; Hick, 1948; Telford, 1931). This increasing delay of the second task response is the high, the short the interval between the two tasks, task 1 and 2, is (Pashler, 1994). This PRP - effect can be observed even when modalities of the tasks (e.g. sensory, motor-driven) are distinct (Pashler, 1994).

Severely theories have tried to build up the PRP-effect's underlying mechanisms. Following work will focus on one of those, the central bottleneck, trying to illuminate the influence of practice on PRP- effect.

What is the central bottleneck about? Welford (1952) discusses the human's information process as a 3-stage process with succeeding precentral, central and postcentral stages. E.g. stimulus identification can be classified as an aspect of precentral stage, response selection as an aspect of central, response execution as an aspect of postcentral stage. According to the central bottleneck model pre- and postcentral stages , active during task 1 , are able to be carried out in parallel with any stage of task 2 ( with pre-, central and postcentral). Contrary, the central stage of task 2 shouldn't be active as long as the central stage of task 1 has been finished. The resulting phenomenon is a waiting period, it has been called the bottleneck delay and should influence the cause of the PRP effect (Pashler & Johnston, 1989; Ruthruff, Johnston & Van Selst , 2001) .

Jiang (2004) gave neurobiological support for the bottleneck account, observing significant correlations between lateral frontal, as well as medial frontal cortex activity and the magnitude of PRP.

A structural bottleneck theory (Pashler, 1994; Welford, 1952) and a strategic bottleneck theory (Meyer & Kieras, 1997) discuss the question of parallelism and seriality during central stage processes.

According the structural bottleneck theory, the PRP effect is due to an inability to carry out more than one central operation (e.g., response selection) at once. E.g., response selection needs access to one or more processors. These processors can only handle one input after another. If two response selection processes are dependent to one processor, only one of the two is able to get access. The activation of the second has to wait until the processor has finished with the first. (Pashler, 1994; Welford, 1952)

On the contrary, a strategic bottleneck theory, the adaptive executive control model (Meyer &

Kieras, 1997a,1997b) doesn't preclude parallel information processing in central stages. Under specific circumstances a simultaneous information transfer should be possible (Schumacher et al. 2001, p 102). The bottleneck delay should be caused by a central executive, controlling the reaction selection at task 1 and 2, inhibiting parallel information transfer, trying to avoid poor performance, errors in information processing(Meyer & Kieras, 1997,1997). FMRI studies, comparing one-task with dual-task performance, noticed a frontal and parietal cortical activation under dual-task condition. These activations could be the neural representation of the executive control, but could reflect executive processes too ( e.g. task-switching) Herath (2001).


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Bottleneck theory’s enlightenment of practice-influence on psychological refractory period
University of Salzburg  (Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät - Fachbereich Psychologie )
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bottleneck theory, information processing, psychological refractory period, practice influence on information processing
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Isabell Brankstein (Author), 2010, Bottleneck theory’s enlightenment of practice-influence on psychological refractory period, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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