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Information for Researchers No. 16 | 23 April 2014
Priority Programme “Human Performance under Multiple Cognitive Task Requirements: From Basic Mechanisms to Optimized Task Scheduling” (SPP 1772)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a new Priority Programme entitled “Human Performance under Multiple Cognitive Task Requirements: From Basic Mechanisms to Optimized Task Scheduling” (SPP 1772). The programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

In modern life, people face many different situations that afford multitasking. Usually such situations are associated with performance decrements, failures, and risks of accidents. This Priority Programme aims to bring together different lines of research on human performance under such multiple cognitive task requirements (i.e. multitasking) in order to provide a new integrative theoretical framework to account for this fundamental aspect of human behaviour.

Traditional theories in cognitive psychology consider motor actions as a “late” output-related aspect in the chain of information processing steps that can be studied independently from “central” cognitive processes. However, the notion that motor and cognitive processes are functionally independent is challenged because motor processes are crucial for many forms of skill and often represent a particularly challenging part of task performance. Yet, despite the strong connection of cognition and motor control, cognitive psychology and movement sciences consider the topic “multitasking” from fundamentally different perspectives. While psychology mainly focusses on structural and functional limitations of cognitive processes when facing multiple cognitive task requirements, movement science emphasises the plasticity of cognition and the possibility of training.

In this Priority Programme, we aim to focus on multiple cognitive task requirements of human performance. Therefore, contributions of cognitive psychology and movement science constitute the core disciplines. Of course, other disciplines, such as cognitive neuroscience, that can help to improve our understanding of cognitive and performance aspects of multitasking may provide important contributions to the work programme.

This combined effort allows the proposed Priority Programme to provide an integrated framework that brings together the issues of structure, flexibility, and plasticity in human multitasking. Specifically, this programme aims at generating a scientific matrix that consists of an array of research topics clustered in the following three broad areas.

  • First, it will provide a new, integrative theoretical framework that reconciles the structural perspective of immutable processing bottlenecks with the more flexible cognitive-control perspective.
  • Second, it will re-examine a flexible processing resources metaphor by referring both to the structural perspective in terms of modality-specific capacities and the flexibility perspective in terms of task requirements, motivational, and emotional modulation.
  • Third, it will assess the plasticity of human cognition and motor behaviour with respect to action optimisation in multiple task situations by focussing on training schedules and the resulting learning processes.

In sum, the present programme is aimed at addressing a new research perspective by integrating existing knowledge on a fundamental aspect of human behaviour (i.e., “multitasking”) across different theoretical perspectives and scientific disciplines. This basic research can also contribute to research in more applied contexts, which require high performance in multitasking.

The Priority Programme intends to support young investigators through workshops, laboratory exchange, a mentoring programme, and it also runs a gender equality programme.

Research proposals for the first three-years funding period, written in English, are now invited. They should be marked “SPP 1772” and must be submitted to the DFG through the online submission portal elan. Deadline for proposal submission is 4 November 2014. Please follow the guidelines for project submission according to forms 50.05 and 54.01 (German/English) meticulously.

Preparatory Workshop
A preparatory workshop will be held at the University of Würzburg on the 25 and 26 August 2014. If you plan to submit a project proposal within the SPP you are invited to participate in the workshop. Please register for the workshop by sending a project outline (1-2 pages) by 1 July 2014 to Andrea Kiesel (kiesel@uni-wuerzburg.de). More information on the workshop and registration can be found under the programme’s homepage. On this website you can also find the full text of the SPP-proposal with more detailed information on the programme.

Participation in the workshop is not mandatory for an application in this programme.

Further Information

For details about the Priority Programme please refer to:

If you are using the elan system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional addresses before being able to submit a proposal. Also, if you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a Temporary Position for Principal Investigators) you need to register the new institutional address beforehand. Please make sure that all applicants of your project (in case there is more than one) start their registration at latest two weeks before the submission deadline. The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff.

The DFG’s electronic proposal processing system elan with proposal instructions and guidelines can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B, which can be found on the DFG’s website at:

For scientific enquiries concerning the scope of the programme, please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

  • Professor Dr. Andrea Kiesel,
    Lehrstuhl für Psychologie III,
    Universität Würzburg,
    Röntgenring 11,
    97970 Würzburg,
    phone +499313182766,

For administrative enquiries please contact:

  • Ruth Krämer,
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft,
    53170 Bonn,
    phone +49228885-2381,