Declarative strategies persist under increased cognitive load

Matthew J. Crossley*, Erick J. Paul, Jessica L. Roeder, F. Gregory Ashby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


When humans simultaneously execute multiple tasks, performance on individual tasks suffers. Complementing existing theories, this article poses a novel question to investigate interactions between memory systems supporting multi-tasking performance: When a primary and dual task both recruit declarative learning and memory systems, does simultaneous performance of both tasks impair primary task performance because learning in the declarative system is reduced, or because control of the primary task is passed to slower procedural systems? To address this question, participants were trained on either a perceptual categorization task believed to rely on procedural learning or one of three different categorization tasks believed to rely on declarative learning. Task performance was examined with and without a simultaneous dual task thought to recruit working memory and executive attention. To test whether the categories were learned procedurally or declaratively, the response keys were switched after a learning criterion had been reached. Large impairments in performance after switching the response keys are taken to indicate procedural learning, and small impairments are taken to indicate declarative learning. Our results suggest that the declarative memory categorization tasks (regardless of task difficulty) were learned by declarative systems, regardless of whether they were learned under dual-task conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • cognitive neuroscience of categorization
  • cognitive neuroscience of memory
  • dual-task performance


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