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Tradeoff and Cognition: Two hypotheses regarding attention during task-based performance. Peter Skehan Chinese University of Hong Kong. Second International Conference on TBLT University of Hawaii, Sept. 20 th – 22 nd 2007. Conceptualising performance on tasks.

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tradeoff and cognition two hypotheses regarding attention during task based performance

Tradeoff and Cognition: Two hypotheses regarding attention during task-based performance

Peter SkehanChinese University of Hong Kong

Second International Conference on TBLT

University of Hawaii, Sept. 20th – 22nd 2007

conceptualising performance on tasks
Conceptualising performance on tasks
  • Three areas typically measured in task research studies
    • Complexity (C) : How advanced (often interpreted as subordinated) the language is
    • Accuracy (A) : The extent to which error is avoided
    • Fluency (F) : How fast, smooth, uninterrupted performance is
  • Sometimes a contrast between general and specific measures
  • Sometimes a tenuous acquisitional sequence
the limited attention approach aka the trade off hypothesis 1
The Limited Attention Approachaka: The Trade-off Hypothesis 1:
  • Attentional capacity is limited
  • Attending to one performance area may take attention away from others
  • Under certain conditions, raised performance in one area may be at the expense of performance in other areas
  • Task difficulty will be associated with lowered performance in some areas, and complexity and accuracy (particularly) compete
the trade off hypothesis 2
The Trade-off Hypothesis 2
  • Task research has explored the influence of task characteristics (e.g. task types, such as personal, narrative, decision-making, and also some specific variables, e.g. interactivity) and task conditions (e.g. pre-task planning; length of time a task is done; post-task conditions)
  • Some of these simply affect difficulty
    • e.g. more participants raise difficulty
tradeoff 3
Tradeoff 3
  • But some task effects are directing, e.g.
    • Information integration raises complexity (T+S 05)
    • Structured tasks lead to greater accuracy (S+F 99)
    • Tasks based on familiar information lead to greater fluency (F+S 96)
  • And some task conditions also direct, e.g.
    • Planning raises complexity and fluency (F+S 96; O 05)
    • Post-task activities raise accuracy (S+F 97: S+F ms)
tradeoff 4
Tradeoff 4
  • Task characteristics and task conditions can have selective, directing effects
  • Some effects influence more than one performance area, e.g. planning
  • Combinations of effects may therefore be possible
  • Research findings can show how to attentuate the impact of tradeoff
trade off 5
Trade-off 5
  • Levelt and stages in speech production
    • Conceptualiser
      • Outputs the pre-verbal message
      • Reflects organisation of ideas and choice of stance
      • Main performance manifestation: Complexity
    • Formulator
      • Lexical encoding
      • Triggering syntactic encoding
      • Main performance manifestations: Accuracy/Fluency
    • Articulator
  • Conceptualiser as the driver for complexity?
  • Formulator as the main arena for trade-off effects?
contrasts in the nature of the two accounts
Contrasts in the nature of the two accounts
  • Robinson is a theory-then-research account
    • Theory of attentional functioning
    • Theory of task complexity
  • Skehan is more research-then-theory
    • Assumption of pervasive limited capacity
    • Low level predictions of influence of different variables, and studies investigating one or two variables at a time
    • Modification/accumulation of findings, and extension of basic account to enable tradeoff circumvention
contrasts cont
Contrasts (cont.)
  • Robinson’s theory is therefore more intricate, and makes complex predictions about relationships
  • It is also, for me, a little counter-intuitive (which isn’t at all bad!)
  • Skehan’s theory is more minimalist and empirically-based
  • It takes accumulated, basic findings and pushes them as far as possible
how can we test the two hypotheses
How can we test the two hypotheses?
  • Broadly, Robinson predicts that:
    • Task complexity will raise both language complexity and accuracy and reduce fluency
      • Therefore experimental manipulations which, e.g. use there-and-then, or greater spatial demands, etc, will push up complexity and accuracy, while lowering fluency
      • Robinson doesn’t predict (but should predict?) that on more difficult tasks accuracy and complexity should correlate
how can we test cont
How can we test: Cont.
  • Skehan predicts that:
    • Some influences will be general, and will provoke trade-off consequences
    • Other influences will be selective
      • Understanding these will come from empirical research
      • Some predictions will be limited and selective
      • Other predictions will involve combinations of independent influences
      • Some of these will lead to combined influences, including jointly raised accuracy and complexity
here and now vs there and then
Here-and-now vs. There-and-then
  • Robinson (95): TnT was more accurate, HnN showed fluency trend. No complexity difference
  • Rahinpour (97): Broadly similar results
  • Iwashita (01): TnT more accurate. No other differences
  • Ishikawa (07): Written performance: CH received support on specific and some general measures of Com. and Acc.
  • Gilabert (07): Planning and HnN/TnT: Planning had customary effects: TnT produced more self-repair (accuracy) and lower fluency
  • Conclusion: Accuracy only for TnT: Fluency and HnN
perspective taking robinson 2000 in press
Perspective taking: Robinson 2000, in press
  • Narrative picture sequences for WAIS
    • Three ‘levels’ of increasing understanding of intentions to effectively sequence pictures and narrate a story
    • General and specific measures
  • Significant difference for TTR only, against predicted direction. Complexity, accuracy, fluency unaffected
  • Little support
conclusions cognition
Conclusions: Cognition
  • Empirically, the support from Robinson-linked research is mixed. Accuracy for TnT does appear, but not complexity or joint accuracy-complexity
  • Perspective also fails to be supported
  • Alternative analyses of HnN vs. TnT are possible
  • The justification of these variables as more complex and so resource-directing needs to be strengthened
supporting cognition foster and skehan 99
Supporting Cognition? : Foster and Skehan (99)
  • Decision making task (losers in a balloon)
  • Planning source (teacher, group, individual) and focus (language, content)
  • Teacher based planning clearly most effective
  • Accuracy and complexity were both raised
  • Interpretation: effective preparation through ideas and through rehearsal/anticipation
  • Planning can have multiple (Conceptualiser and Formulator) functions
supporting cognition skehan and foster ms
Supporting Cognition? : Skehan and Foster (ms)
  • Decision making and narrative tasks
  • Post-task condition: transcribe one minute of your own performance
  • Hypothesis: Foreknowledge of this task would push attention towards accuracy
  • Result: Both accuracy and complexity were raised
  • Interpretation: attention has to be focussed, but with the right conditions, it can be, but to form-in-general
supporting cognition tavokali and skehan 05
Supporting Cognition? : Tavokali and Skehan (05)
  • Narrative picture series
  • Increasing degree of structure, (Winter-Hoey and problem solution structure)
  • More structured tasks produced greater accuracy and fluency
  • One of the structured tasks also generated greater complexity: This was because there was a need to integrate background and foreground information
  • Interpretation: Two task features interacted to support accuracy and complexity separately
the role of lexis
The role of lexis
  • Lexis-as-variety (Lambda), and lexis-as-TTR (D from CLAN)
  • They don’t correlate
  • Lambda has negative correlations with accuracy and complexity
  • Tasks with heavy and hard-to-avoid lexical demands lead to lowered accuracy and complexity
  • This speaks against a task-complexity driven increase in language complexity and accuracy in the second language case
assessment of evidence
Assessment of evidence
  • Basically, the Robinson-based evidence for the Cognition Hypothesis is not strong
    • Accuracy and complexity are rarely jointly raised in research by Robinson or colleagues
    • Findings of this relationship come from others
    • What then, can we say about these cases?
the three positive studies
The three ‘positive’ studies
  • Note: no correlation between accuracy and complexity in these cases (or ever reported)
  • Two ‘condition’ studies.
    • One is of effective preparation, requiring ideas and expression. (Planning is resource-dispersing) One is of attention focussing, predicted for accuracy but actually complexity also. Neither involves task complexity
  • The third study shows conjoint influences of task characteristics, which I assume work separately to produce the result that they do
the fruitfulness of using levelt
The fruitfulness of using Levelt
  • The Conceptualiser stage influences complexity, the Formulator is more concerned with accuracy
  • There-and-then is easier to handle in the Formulator, since input demands are much lower
  • F+S 99: Teacher based planning: Effective Conceptualiser work and Formulator easing
    • Planning can have multiple foci, and multiple effects
  • T+S 05: Structure provided a task macrostructure, and eased Formulator operation: Information integration pushed Conceptualiser use, especially as indexed by subordination
partial evidence for cognition
Partial evidence for Cognition?
  • S+F ms: Post-task influence: Essentially, heightened attention to form
  • The effect on accuracy is reasonable: attention directed towards the Formulator, because of the experimental condition
  • Why complexity? Actually, not so strong an effect, but just there. Speakers do seem to want to achieve precision and use demanding language.
  • Key issue: One cannot say that this was driven by difficulty
  • Let’s stick with Levelt!
pedagogic implications 1
Pedagogic Implications 1
  • What we know is partial and it is also fragmented
    • Insights about task characteristics
    • Insights about task conditions
    • Insights about combinations of characteristics and conditions
  • The usefulness of this information depends on:
    • Either having clear performance goals (CAF)
    • Or believing in a linked acquisitional sequence
pedagogic implications 2
Pedagogic Implications 2
  • A potential sequence
    • Complexity > Accuracy > Fluency
  • Choose tasks and task conditions to promote this sequence, such that new language is used, then control is gained over this language so that error is reduced, and then fluency-lexicalised language is achieved
  • This is, basically, speculative
pedagogic implications 3
Pedagogic Implications 3
  • We have not solved the problem of task difficulty
    • Therefore we cannot rely upon sequencing tasks in a difficulty order
  • We have made progress in rating difficulty, fairly consistently, but this connects with performance only slightly
  • Perhaps now we have to say that analysing the lexical demands of tasks is particularly important
pedagogic implications 4
Pedagogic Implications 4
  • Develop planning
    • Explore different approaches to planning
  • Train planning
    • Help learners to get better at pre-task activities which
      • Push the Conceptualiser to greater ambition
      • Anticipate problems, especially lexical
      • Rehearse effectively to ease subsequent Formulator operations
pedagogic implications 5
Pedagogic Implications 5
  • At the post-task stage, nurture, consolidate, and complexify new language which emerges through performance
    • Exploit the post-task phase, not simply for Machiavellian attention manipulation
    • Use language whose salience has just been realised and:
      • practise it,
      • build upon it
      • integrate it
      • recycle it