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A History of Modern Psychology 11th Edition

A History of Modern Psychology (11th Edition)

Book Edition11th Edition
Author(s)Schultz, Schultz
Chapter 4, End of Chapter, Review Questions, Exercise 1
Page 84

In your opinion, is Wundt's finding that we cannot attend to more than one stimulus at a time still valid in today's world of constant exposure to multimedia experiences? Why? Why not?

Here is a tip:

There is abundant evidence that proves that multitasking is difficult because of limited cognitive resources.


Wilhelm Wundt provided evidence that it was not possible to focus on two different sources of information at the same time. Humans can focus on only one sensation at a time. For instance, one may not be able to talk and read a book at the same time.

According to the researcher, the differences were a result of people focusing on different stimuli. Other psychologists thought that these differences occurred because astronomers were unable to focus on the star and grid lines at the same time as a result of constraints on cognitive capacity.

Although today humans consume a lot of information from mobiles, televisions, and laptops at the same time, the psychologist's claim about limited attention is validated by present studies as well.

People cannot perform two tasks effectively if they are being done simultaneously, that is, one may still be able to perform both tasks, but the quality of performance is bound to decrease.

Verified Answer

Wilhelm Wundt did not support the concept of multitasking, that is, according to psychologists, it was not possible for humans to actively pay attention to and focus on two different types of tasks at the same time.

The research was conducted on how there were slight differences between the recording time of different astronomers. If the astronomer focused on the star first, the recording time was shorter. If this was not the case, the time was longer.

Based on this, Wilhelm Wundt concluded that multitasking was not possible. This was based on experimental results in which they created a pendulum that provided both auditory and visual information. This was known as the thought gauge. They saw that it was not possible to focus on both the sound of the bell and the visual information of the moving pendulum. Based on this, it was deduced that it took a person one-eighth of a second to notice the sound after the sight of the bell sequentially.

These results still hold true today based on the empirical evidence provided by contemporary researchers. According to psychologists, the brain cannot pay attention to two sources of information. Other studies also show that there is an inability to actively manage more than one cognitive task at the same time.

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