Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Is cognitive ability a liability? A critique and future research agenda on skilled performance

Margaret Beier & Frederick Oswald
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, December 2012, Pages 331-345

Over a century of psychological research provides strong and consistent support for the idea that cognitive ability correlates positively with success in tasks that people face in employment, education, and everyday life. Recent experimental research, however, has converged on a different and provocative conclusion, namely that lower-ability people can actually be more effective performers within special environments characterized by features such as time pressure, social evaluation, and unpredictable task change. If this conclusion is true, it has extensive implications for practices such as personnel selection, training design, and teaching methods. The current article reexamines and reinterprets this research within the context of well-established resource theories of cognitive processing and skill acquisition leading to a less provocative conclusion that serves to reiterate the benefits of cognitive ability for task performance. Following this reexamination, we conclude by providing a research agenda for examining the determinants of skilled performance in dynamic task environments, including the following: (a) broadening the range of abilities and task difficulties examined, (b) considering the role of nonability traits and goals in skilled performance (e.g., personality, learning, and performance goals), (c) investigating the processes (e.g., problem solving strategies) that people use in complex environments, (d) developing research designs and analytic strategies for examining adaptive performance, and (e) investigating how best to train for adaptive performance.


Who Multi-Tasks and Why? Multi-Tasking Ability, Perceived Multi-Tasking Ability, Impulsivity, and Sensation Seeking

David Sanbonmatsu et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2013

The present study examined the relationship between personality and individual differences in multi-tasking ability. Participants enrolled at the University of Utah completed measures of multi-tasking activity, perceived multi-tasking ability, impulsivity, and sensation seeking. In addition, they performed the Operation Span in order to assess their executive control and actual multi-tasking ability. The findings indicate that the persons who are most capable of multi-tasking effectively are not the persons who are most likely to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously. To the contrary, multi-tasking activity as measured by the Media Multitasking Inventory and self-reported cell phone usage while driving were negatively correlated with actual multi-tasking ability. Multi-tasking was positively correlated with participants’ perceived ability to multi-task ability which was found to be significantly inflated. Participants with a strong approach orientation and a weak avoidance orientation – high levels of impulsivity and sensation seeking – reported greater multi-tasking behavior. Finally, the findings suggest that people often engage in multi-tasking because they are less able to block out distractions and focus on a singular task. Participants with less executive control - low scorers on the Operation Span task and persons high in impulsivity - tended to report higher levels of multi-tasking activity.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

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