Perceiving Surface Properties by ProQuest

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									Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics
2009, 71 (8), 1679-1681
doi:10.3758/APP.71.8.1679



                                         News From the Field
        COGNITIVE CONTROL                   ers, and similar results occurred for            bumpy, materially homogeneous sur-
                                            other cognitive tasks. For example, in           faces and showed that if one fixes the
“One Moment, Let Me Just
                                            both a visual memory task and a con-             mean luminance of such an image, the
Get This Text . . .”                        tinuous performance task, the number             perceived albedo of the surface is sen-
Ophir et al. (2009). Cognitive control in   of task-irrelevant distractors produced          sitively controlled by the skew of the
media multitaskers. PNAS, 106, 15583.
                                            a greater memory decrement in heavy              image’s gray-level histogram. Positive
   Recent technologies allow users to       than in light media multitaskers. Inter-         skew makes the surface look glossy;
be online at all times through moni-        estingly, there were few, if any, differ-        negative skew makes it look matte.
toring their phones, text messages,         ences in results for the latter two tasks        The spatial pattern of light reflected
e-mails, and Web sites, often simulta-      when distractors were absent.                    by the surface is irrelevant to this sta-
neously. Ophir et al. investigated the         Ophir et al.’s results are provocative        tistic: You can scramble the pixels in
consequences of this “media multi-          in suggesting that directing limited             the image without altering the skew
tasking” on the control of basic cog-       processes to multiple sources does not           of the histogram, so if skew really
nitive processes. Media multitasking        improve such multitasking behavior               does control our visual judgments of
has two potential effects: On the one       as task switching. Although the find-            surface albedo, this is a serious short-
hand, directing attention and other         ings are correlational, one straight-            cut indeed. Anderson and Kim have
limited cognitive resources from            forward and testable explanation of              mounted a concerted assault on this
one environmental source to another         them is that various technologies                claim. In essence, they argue that Mo-
might reduce the typical limitations        may emphasize the bottom-up con-                 toyoshi et al.’s results are an artifact
of human cognition through mere             trol of attention and cognition. Heavy           of the restricted set of surfaces they
practice, allowing cognition to be          media multitaskers may relinquish                used. When you fix the mean of an
more flexible and reducing the costs        top-down control, thereby becoming               image of a materially homogeneous
of performing several tasks simulta-        more susceptible to the effects of dis-          surface and massage the histogram
neously. On the other, media multi-         tractors and becoming hindered when              to alter its skew, the only possible ef-
tasking might make cognitive control        top-down control must be exercised,              fects, Anderson and Kim argue, are
more difficult.                             as in task switching. —S.P.V.                    the following: Making the skew posi-
   To investigate these issues, Ophir                          
								
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