PSYCH study below made use of 210



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center850008549640November 21, 2018
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TITLE OF STUDY: Sex and Modality Effects in Divided Attention Task.

ABSTRACT: the study below made use of 210 participants in level 400 reading psychology on both the main and city campuses of the University of Ghana. In divided attention conditions, participants were presented with a within and an across modality condition. Participants were then scored on recall. The results of the research revealed that, there was no significant difference between the genders on divided attention across modalities. Also, the control group performed better than the experimental groups across modality and finally, performance in the within modality group was better than the across modality group. Based on these results, the researcher recommends that a single task be indulged in at a time to enhance recall and improve performance and outputs rather than dual tasks.

Attention is present in almost all domains of human thoughts and feelings. When you walk through a busy street, a large number of stimuli bombard our sense organs but we can take in and only use a very small portion of stimuli. This process of selectively responding to a stimulus or range of stimuli is called attention (C. Stevens & D. Bavelier, 2012). Attention thus refers to the behavioral and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on a discreet stimulus while ignoring other perceivable stimuli. (Anderson J. R, 2004). It can be thought of as the allocation of limited processing resources. According to Amanda Micon (2018), before psychology was birth, attention was studied as a branch of philosophy. This changed during the latter half of the nineteenth century when there was a huge growth in the field of psychology and the study of attention shifted focus toward research and experimentation into the process of attention. Attention, based on experimental works of the early psychologists in 1920 such as Broadbent (1958), revealed two main categories namely the Cognitive model and the Clinical model. The cognitive model of attention yields specifications on types of attention that are distinguished by the types of cognitive processing they involve. The model is mostly used for theoretical and educational purposes. (Scott Nichols, 2016). Passive and active attention, top down and bottom up attention as well as visual and auditory attention are types of attention explained using the cognitive model. The clinical model is based more on the neuropsychological research into attention processing. This model was primarily based on the work of Solhberg and Mateer in 2010. They found that, attention consisted of five (5) levels. Levels because, they noticed all five types of attention identified engaged with each other hierarchically. This implies that, an individual must be able to engage in one level of attention in order to successfully engage in the ensuing level of attention. The levels identified were focused attention, sustained attention, selective attention, alternating attention and divided attention.
This paper zeros in on divided attention which refers to the ability of an individual to sustain focus on more than one stimulus at a time sometimes referred to as multitasking. It seeks to examine the effects sex and modality has on divided attention.

Kahneman in 1973 propounded a theory of attention on which this present study was built. His theory stated that, there is a central processor which is largely influenced by steady arousal, temporary intentions, rating of demands on the ability to determine the amount of attention given to each task as well as enduring dispositions. (Carnevale, 2006). This theory additionally suggests that, mental effort is restrained but can easily be manipulated and depending on admission required, attention regulated. In 2006, Carnevale argued that, many activities could be engaged in at any time depending on the efforts each activity demands as well as the capacity available. Fox and Madden in 2005 supported Carnevale’s argument that, attention is
apportioned to an activity based on how demanding the task is as well as if it is a controlled or automatic process.

An experiment by Wang et al in 2010 revealed that, people who engaged in a single task activity out did those who engaged in a dual task activity. The explanation for this result stated that those who engaged in single tasks did not share attentional capacity with any other activity unlike the dual task where attentional capacity was shared amongst themselves. This study assessed the multitasking performance under real life scenarios using 40 participants who were randomly selected and asked to copy and edit a short essay whiles indulging in a conversation with another person through skype(visual-auditory) that is across modality or an instant messenger(visual-visual) that is within modality. Performance was appraised based on the number of errors observed while copying and editing the passage.

A subsequent study by Kang and Wang in 2014, cross examined single task and dual task both within and across modalities. Their experiment revealed that, individuals in the single task group performed better than those in the dual task group. They believed cognitive overload in the dual task group accounted for their poor performance. Astin (1999) in his review of the above study proposed that, this cognitive overload was as a result of the task being complicated rather than easy.

An initial study by Grinter and Palen (2012) disclosed that, there was no difference between males and female’s performance on a divided attention task. This study used 30 males and females who performed both verbal and visual tests. This study was carried out to investigate the role the different genders had or played in divided attention. Both sexes were made to listen to a story whiles a list of words were visually presented to them. After, the participants were given a list of words and required to identify the ones that was presented to them earlier on. The researcher believed there was no significant difference between their performances the reason being that, women and men are allowed to engage in similar activities now than before indicating that, gender roles have changed hence the similarities between their performances. Nonetheless, Horrigan and Rainie in 2005 argued that, women perform better than men on divided attention tasks across modalities. Their argument was grounded on evolution being advantageous to women than to men in terms of multitasking in that, women naturally engage in activities that require multitasking than men do.

The study was carried out to: (1) Examine dual task effects within and across modalities.

(2) Examine gender related differences on dual task.

Females will perform significantly better in (EG1) across modality task than males.

Single task group (CG) will perform better than dual task across modality.

Performance will be better in Visual/audio group (EG1) than visual/visual group (EG2).

Dual task: performing one activity.

Single task: performing two activities simultaneously.

Within modality: simultaneously presenting two visual materials.

Across modality: simultaneously presenting a visual and an auditory material.

Visual mode: visual materials presented to the participants.

Auditory mode: recorded materials played for the participants.

Population and Sample: The present study used the level 400 psychology students of the University of Ghana from both the main and city campuses. Using the simple random design, the researcher drew a sample of two hundred and ten (210) students and assigned them into three independent groups consisting of seventy (70) students each, namely the control group which performed a single task, the experimental group 1 which performed the across modality task and the experimental group 2 which performed the within modality task. Additionally, the participants were of the same academic level however, had different levels of intelligence as well as different cultural background.

Equipment/Material: Using Microsoft PowerPoint, the researcher presented a study list consisting of 25 randomly drawn English words to participants as the first visual material. An English fluency test was used as the second visual task. He then used a recall test made up of 50 words consisting of the initial 25 words on the study list as well as 25 homophones which served as masking words. Additionally, a recorded passaged taken from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” was played to the participants as the auditory task. 10 simple questions from the passage as well as 25 yes/no questions were used as a rehearsal prevention task. Three laptops, a headphone, and a projector were used in extending the materials to the participants.

Design and Procedure: The independent group experimental design (between subjects) was employed in this research to enable the researcher use/have three independent randomized
groups. During the experiment, the control group (single task condition) was presented with the visual material which was the study list at an inter stimulus interval (ISI) of one word per second using a laptop and a projector. Afterwards, the 50 recall list was also presented to participants using a one word per second (ISI). Participants in this condition were scored by being asked to write down words that were in the study list. For the experimental group 1(across modality condition), participants were presented with the same visual material (as the control group) and at the same time made to engage in an auditory task (listening to the recorded conversation). After, a rehearsal prevention task of 10 simple questions from the passage was administered to the participants. Participants in the experimental group 2(within modality condition) were also presented with the visual material (as the control group) and the English fluency task (second visual task), presented side by side on the laptop. After that, a rehearsal prevention task consisting of 25 yes/no questions was presented for participants to answer. Right after this, participants were presented with the recall list to produce the study list.

Scoring of Data: the inter stimulus interval (ISI) for presentation was one word per second and recall was one word per two seconds. The recall list was projected one after the other and participants were to respond either yes/no if any of the recall words was in the study list. Correct responses was marked over 25.

-68580063754000Table 1: A summary of the descriptive statistics table showing the means and standard deviation for the study variables.

-68580019875500SexModalityNMeanStd. Deviation
MalesControl Group3117.783.23
FemalesControl Group3918.363.42
TotalControl Group7018.103.33
The summary table above shows that within males, control group (mean=17.77) reported higher level of performance than EG1 (mean=13.06) and EG2 (mean=13.32). As well as within females, control group recorded higher level of performance (mean=18.36) more than EG1 (mean=11.15) and EG2 (mean=14.58). The overall performance also indicates that the control group scored a relatively higher level of performance (mean=18.10) more than EG1 (mean=12.00) and EG2 (mean=14.13).

Table 2:
-18097534544000 A summary of the two-way ANOVA table, showing the effect of sex and modality on recall.

-18097524574500SourceType III Sum of squaresdfMean SquareFSig.

Corrected Model1436.365287.2717.07.00
Sex * Modality94.24247.122.80.06
The two-way ANOVA table shows that, there was no significant difference between males and females on recall F (1,209) = .002, p; 0.05. Thus hypothesis one which stated that “females will
perform significantly better in (EG1) across modality task than males” was not supported. Also, the result shows that, modality had a significant effect on recall F (2,209) = 38.11, p; 0.05. However, there was no significant interaction effect between sex and modality on recall F (2,209) = 2.80, p ; o.o5.

Table 3: Summary of the Post- Hoc Analysis.

left-13589000-28576254635Control GroupEG1EG2
Control Group- – –
EG1-6.10* – –
952634543900EG2-3.97*2.13* –
The multiple comparison table above shows that, CG performed significantly better than EG1. Therefore, hypothesis two which states that, “single task group (control) will perform better than dual task across modality” was supported. Again, the multiple comparison table also shows that, EG2 performed significantly better than EG1. Therefore, hypothesis three which stated that, “performance will be better in visual/audio group (EG1) than visual/visual group (EG2) was also not supported.

Interpretation of the Graph
From Figure 1 in the appendices, the mean score of males on dual tasks across modality is larger than that of the females. However, the mean score of females on dual task within modality is seen to be higher than the mean score of males. The graph further reveals that, the control group performed better than the experimental groups. The meeting of the two lines in the graph indicates an interaction between sex and modality. However, the Two-Way ANOVA analysis table reveals that, this interaction is insignificant.

The study was conducted based on the two aims stated earlier as well as the three hypothesis drawn. Hypothesis two which stated that, single task group will perform better than dual task group across modality was supported. The research of Wang et. al. in 2010 confirmed these findings explaining that, those in the single task group did not share their attentional capacity with any other task unlike the dual task group did and therefore had full attention. Additionally, Khang and Wang (2014) believed that, cognitive overload in the dual task condition accounted for their poor performance. The results were also backed by the theory of attention which indicated that, single task is performed better than dual task because it demands less attentional resources.
Contrarily, Hypothesis one which stated that females would perform significantly better in EG1 across modality than males and hypothesis three which also stated that, performance would be better in EG1 than EG2 was not supported. A research by Grinter and Palen (2012) confirmed these findings. The researchers believed that, the change in gender roles presently, accounts for this. They stated that, earlier on, women were more exposed to multitasking duties than men. However, Horrigan and Rainie (2005) found that, women perform better than men across modality on multitasking. The findings in this paper can be said to be as a result of the participants having an equal academic level though different intellectual levels. This implies that, both sexes would be perform well on divide attention task because, they have both been practicing on the same conditions.

The study however had some limitations. Which included the use of participants with the same level of academics thus making gender insignificant. Additionally, participants weren’t pretested before being assigned to groups. Furthermore, the design of the study, being an experiment therefore makes the result lack external validity.

In conclusion, the study assessed gender differences on divided attention across modality and found out that, there was no significant differences between the genders. However, it is recommended that, further detailed studies be carried out to conclusively state that, indeed, there are no differences between males and females in terms of divided attention and also, single tasks, rather than dual tasks should be indulged in to increase output and improve performance.

Anderson, J. R. (2005). Cognitive Psychology and its implications (6th Ed). Worth publishers. P. 519.

Astin, A. (1999). Student involvement: A development theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40(5): 518- 529.
Broadbent, D. (1958). Perception and communication. London; Pergamon press.

Carnevale, D. (2006). Emails is for old is for old people. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(7): A27.

Fox, S. & Madden, M. (2005). Generations online. Data memo. Retrieved online from

Grinter, R. E. & Palen, I. (2002). Instant messaging in teenage life. In: Proceedings of ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), New Orleans, LA.

Horrigan, J. & Rainie, L. (2005). Internet: The mainstreaming of online life. Trends 2005. Washington DC: Hope Publishing.

Micon, A. (2018). Types of attention.
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Sohlberg, M.M. & Mateer, C.A. (2010). APT-lll: Attention processing training: A direct attention training program for persons with acquired brain injury. Youngsville, NC: Lash & Associates.

Stevens, C. & Bavelier, D. (2012). The role of selective attention on academic foundations: A cognitive neuroscience perspective. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2(suppl 1), S30-S48.

Kang, O. & Wang, L. (2014). The impact of different task types on communicative features on examinees’ speaking performances at different proficiency levels. Cognition, 6(2): 231- 232.

Wang, Z. J., Srivastava, J., David, P., D’Angelo, J., Moreland, J. J., Brady, C. & Powers, S. (2010). Multitasking within same modality and between modalities: An examination of task performance and eye movement. Cognition, 26: 246- 325
Table 1
Descriptive Statistics
Performance Sex Modality N Mean Std. Deviation
Males Control Group 31 17.7742 3.23223
EG1 31 13.0645 3.77655
EG2 25 13.3200 4.94739
Total 87 14.8161 4.51233
Females Control Group 39 18.3590 3.42197
EG1 39 11.1538 4.32580
EG2 45 14.5778 4.64410
Total 123 14.6911 5.05564
Total Control Group 70 18.1000 3.32818
EG1 70 12.0000 4.17376
EG2 70 14.1286 4.75767
Total 210 14.7429 4.82721
Tests of Between-Subjects Effects
Dependent Variable: Performance Source Type III Sum of Squares dfMean Square F Sig.

Corrected Model 1436.355a 5 287.271 17.067 .000
Intercept 43747.460 1 43747.460 2.599E3 .000
Sex .026 1 .026 .002 .969
Modality 1282.865 2 641.433 38.108 .000
Sex * Modality 94.241 2 47.120 2.799 .063
Error 3433.759 204 16.832 Total 50514.000 210 Corrected Total 4870.114 209 a. R Squared = .295 (Adjusted R Squared = .278) Table 2
Multiple Comparisons
(I) Modality (J) Modality Mean Difference (I-J) Std. Error Sig. 95% Confidence Interval
Lower Bound Upper Bound
Control Group EG1 6.1000* .69348 .000 4.7327 7.4673
EG2 3.9714* .69348 .000 2.6041 5.3387
EG1 Control Group -6.1000* .69348 .000 -7.4673 -4.7327
EG2 -2.1286* .69348 .002 -3.4959 -.7613
EG2 Control Group -3.9714* .69348 .000 -5.3387 -2.6041
EG1 2.1286* .69348 .002 .7613 3.4959
Based on observed means.

The error term is Mean Square (Error) = 16.832. *. The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level. Figure 1: