A Mechanistic Account of Constraints on Control-Dependent Processing: Shared Representation, Conflict and Persistence

AbstractOne of the most fundamental and striking limitations of human cognitive function is the constraint on the number of control-dependent processes that can be executed simultaneously. However, the sources of this capacity constraint remain largely unexplored. Previous work has attributed the constraints on control-dependent processing to the sharing of representations between tasks in neural systems. Here, we examine how shared representations interact with two other factors in producing constraints on control-dependent processing. We first demonstrate that the detrimental effects of shared representations on multitasking performance are contingent on the amount of conflict that is induced by the tasks that share representations. We then examine how the persistence of shared representations between tasks affects processing interference during serial task execution. Finally, we discuss how this set of mechanisms can account for various phenomena in neural architectures, including the psychological refractory period, task switch costs, as well as constraints on cognitive control.

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