Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Alan Hartley

Reader 2

Newton Copp

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Rights Information

© 2012 Brandi S. Seaman


This study investigated dual-task processing in younger and older adults using a psychological refractory period procedure. The first task was to name the color framing a picture; the second task was to either press a button or tilt their body in the direction of the tilt of the picture. In the body-tilt condition, electromyography was used to determine the reaction time. The stimulus-onset asynchrony (SOA) between the onset of the color and tilting of the picture varied from 50 to 1000 ms. In contrast with the response selection bottleneck model, which claims that processing of a second task cannot be completed until the first task is finished, the mode of response for the two tasks directly impacted the ability to avoid the bottleneck. In the body-tilt condition the increase in reaction time to the second task with decreasing SOA was less than in the button press condition, suggesting that processing of the second task could begin before processing of the first task was completed. This was true for both younger and older adults. Contrary to previous findings that older adults cannot engage in simultaneous processing of two tasks, evidence was found that older adults, like younger adults, could bypass the cognitive bottleneck if the second task has a reflexive component.