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An Empirical Examination of Secondary Task Reaction Times: Testing What They Really Measure
Unformatted Document Text:  An Empirical Examination of the Secondary Task Reaction Times: Testing What They Really Measure This study tests a model of what secondary task reaction times (STRTs) actually measure as outlined in the STRT model proposed by Lang and Basil (1998). Lang and Basil’s (1998) review of the STRT literature found that past literature referred to four theoretical definitions of what STRTs measure: resources required by a message; resources allocated to the message; resources available for processing; and resources remaining in the system. Indeed, they found that individual studies would often fluctuate between conceptualizations. The authors then integrated the limited capacity model of mediated message processing (for a complete discussion of the model, see Lang, 2000) with the four definitions, concluding that a conceptualization of STRTs as an index of available resources at encoding best fit the published STRT results. STRT methodology requires a subject in an experiment to perform a primary and secondary task at the same time, and it is assumed that the subject cannot concurrently use the same resources for the primary and secondary tasks. As primary tasks require more resources, there are fewer resources left over to conduct the secondary tasks, and STRTs slow down (Lang and Basil, 1998). Lang and Basil (1998) focused in particular on the counterintuitive results found for STRTs elicited during messages with high and low global video complexity and local video complexity. Theory seemed to predict that global video complex messages would elicit slower STRTs because more resources would be required to process them. But in fact, global video complex messages elicit faster STRTs than do simple video complex messages. Lang and Basil (1998) suggested the reason for this is that more resources are made available during complex messages. This means increasing global complexity leads to more resources being allocated to

Authors: Bradley, Samuel., Lang, Annie., Haverhals, Leah. and Shin, Mija.
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An Empirical Examination of the Secondary Task Reaction Times:
Testing What They Really Measure
This study tests a model of what secondary task reaction times (STRTs) actually measure as
outlined in the STRT model proposed by Lang and Basil (1998). Lang and Basil’s (1998) review
of the STRT literature found that past literature referred to four theoretical definitions of what
STRTs measure: resources required by a message; resources allocated to the message; resources
available for processing; and resources remaining in the system. Indeed, they found that
individual studies would often fluctuate between conceptualizations. The authors then integrated
the limited capacity model of mediated message processing (for a complete discussion of the
model, see Lang, 2000) with the four definitions, concluding that a conceptualization of STRTs
as an index of available resources at encoding best fit the published STRT results.
STRT methodology requires a subject in an experiment to perform a primary and
secondary task at the same time, and it is assumed that the subject cannot concurrently use the
same resources for the primary and secondary tasks. As primary tasks require more resources,
there are fewer resources left over to conduct the secondary tasks, and STRTs slow down (Lang
and Basil, 1998).
Lang and Basil (1998) focused in particular on the counterintuitive results found for
STRTs elicited during messages with high and low global video complexity and local video
complexity. Theory seemed to predict that global video complex messages would elicit slower
STRTs because more resources would be required to process them. But in fact, global video
complex messages elicit faster STRTs than do simple video complex messages. Lang and Basil
(1998) suggested the reason for this is that more resources are made available during complex
messages. This means increasing global complexity leads to more resources being allocated to


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