Identifying optimum performance trade-offs using a cognitively bounded rational analysis model of discretionary task interleaving

CP Janssen, Duncan Brumby, J Dowell, N Chater, A Howes
in Topics in Cognitive Science, Journal article


We report the results of a dual-task study in which participants performed a tracking and typing task under various experimental conditions. An objective payoff function was used to provide explicit feedback on how participants should trade off performance between the tasks. Results show that participants' dual-task interleaving strategy was sensitive to changes in the difficulty of the tracking task and resulted in differences in overall task performance. To test the hypothesis that people select strategies that maximize payoff, a Cognitively Bounded Rational Analysis model was developed. This analysis evaluated a variety of dual-task interleaving strategies to identify the optimal strategy for maximizing payoff in each condition. The model predicts that the region of optimum performance is different between experimental conditions. The correspondence between human data and the prediction of the optimal strategy is found to be remarkably high across a number of performance measures. This suggests that participants were honing their behavior to maximize payoff. Limitations are discussed. © 2011 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.