Experimental Psychology

Paper 1 Roadmap: Task-­Switching
Overview:
In this project you will collect, analyze, and report data from a simple task-­switching experiment. Data
will be collected and analyzed on the computer. You will be responsible for writing a full APA style
research report.
Things you will learn:
Using reaction time as a dependent measure
Paired Samples t Test
Reading and citing primary source material
Short background on the task-­switching paradigm:
A well-­known finding in research on attention and performance is that people suffer costs in
performance when switching between two tasks. This is commonly measured by having people
alternate or repeat between two simple tasks. Performance is faster and more accurate for task
repeats than task switches. The cost to performance in both speed and accuracy is termed the
taskswitching cost.
In the current experiment you will be given two different tasks. On each trial you will see a number
(1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9) and you will either have judge whether the number is odd or even (a parity
judgment), or judge whether the number is smaller or larger than 5 (magnitude judgment). We will
measure your reaction time (RT) and accuracy in this task. The goal is to determine whether RT is
faster when the tasks repeat across trials than when tasks switch across trials.
Background readings:
Monsell, S. (2003). Task switching. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 134-­140.
Writing the paper
There are many resources for help on writing an APA style research report in the lab manual. As well,
here is a rough roadmap for writing paper 1.
1. Use APA formatting rules 6th edition recommended.
2. Create a suitable title for the paper 3. Write the
abstract:
-­150-­250 words
-­The aim is to very briefly describe the issue at hand, the experiment, and the results.
The introduction (around 2 double-­spaced pages)
The goal of the introduction is to first put the research into a broader context, and then narrow the
focus to describe the specific research aims.
A. Opening section: (starting broad) -­ about 1 paragraph
-­Discuss task-­switching using examples in the real world
-­Tell the reader that the purpose of the current experiment is to measure task-­switching using
a laboratory procedure
B. Middle section: (discussing ideas about task-­switching)
-­Discuss the idea of a task-­set with an example
-­Discuss the idea of task-­set reconfiguration, and explain how this idea explains the taskswitching
cost.
C. Final section: (briefly explain how the experiment and what you expect to find)
-­Briefly explain what the participants will be doing in the task
-­briefly give predictions for performance in each condition
Methods (about 1 page)
The methods section should be a complete recipe that anyone could follow to replicate your
experiment. There are lots of details that you can include, some of these are listed below. Be brief
and concise
-­Participants
-­how many people? Where did they come from?
-­ Materials
-­size of computer monitor
-­program used to carry out experiment
-­what numbers were used, what tasks were used
-­what cues were people given as signal to perform each task
-­Procedure
-­What was the design?
-­What were the independent variables
-­what was the dependent variable -­within
or between subjects?
-­how many trials
-­how were the stimuli for each trial chosen
-­Describe the complete trial-­sequence
-­First the fixation cross appeared (for how long)
-­then the cue appeared, then the stimulus appeared (for how long)
-­Reaction times were recorded -­
how was the next trial triggered?
Results
The result section is used to report the patterns in the data, and the statistical support for those
patterns. You will compute the results using SPSS in the lab computers. The lab manual can be
consulted for help on running statistical tests, and for reporting results.
-­ Describe the statistical analysis
e.g., mean RTs from each condition were submitted to a one-­way repeated measures ANOVA
with task sequence (repeat vs. switch) as the single factor
-­Tell the reader where they can see the data.
-­e.g., the results of experiment 1 are presented in table 1, or in figure 1
-­you will have to make a table or figure to display the data in your paper
-­Describe the pattern of each main effect
-­The main effect of task sequence was significant, t(df) = #.##, p<.##.
-­Describe the mean RTs for each condition (was one larger or smaller than the other?)
7. Discussion
The discussion can be used to briefly restate verbally the pattern of the most important results, and
then to relate the results to theory and ideas developed in the introduction
-­highlight the main findings from the experiment
-­Discuss how the data can be explained by the task-­set reconfiguration hypothesis
-­discuss general importance of task-­switching research, suggestions for further research, and
potential problems with the current research.
8. References
-­include citations used in the paper
9. Figures or tables
-­create a figure or a table that shows the mean RTs for the task-­repeat and the task-­switch conditions

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