Apr 17, 2020

Adaptive rescheduling of error monitoring in multitasking

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Robert Steinhauser, Robert Steinhauser


The concurrent execution of temporally overlapping tasks leads to considerable interference between the subtasks, which is overcome by a neural mechanism that actively defers processing of the secondary task. We recorded error-related scalp potentials to investigate whether such a mechanism can also be found in error monitoring. Participants worked on a multitasking paradigm with partially overlapping execution of two tasks (T1, T2). The error positivity, a correlate of conscious error evaluation, was reduced after T1 errors but occurred after a correct T2-response instead. MVPA-based and regression based single-trial analysis revealed a trial-wise trade-off between immediate and postponed error processing. Two follow-up experiments confirmed this finding, showed that this result is not due to credit-assignment errors in which a T1 error is falsely attributed to T2, and verified the link to conscious error detection. These findings demonstrate a remarkable flexibility of the human brain when adapting to multitasking situations.

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