Theses and Dissertations


Hao Bai

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Bradshaw, Gary L.

Committee Member

Eakin, Deborah K.

Committee Member

Moss, Jarrod

Committee Member

Bethel, Cindy L.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Cognitive Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Previous research suggests that people employ priority-related task attributes (e.g., task importance, task length, and task deadline) in prioritization. The process of prioritization employs heuristics to determine task order (Zhang & Feyen, 2007a). These models only address the prioritization process at a task level and do not address the cognitive mechanisms underlying prioritization. Building on previous findings, a process model of prioritization is proposed to explain prioritization during multitasking. Two experiments examined three cognitive processes of prioritization and the influence of time pressure. Three processes were investigated: 1) a process makes magnitude comparisons on priority-related information, 2) a process integrates multiple pieces of information and checks for potential conflicts among information, and 3) a process solves conflicts among priority-related information during prioritization. Under the influence of time pressure, it is hypothesized that people will adopt strategies that require fewer cognitive resources compared to situations where no time pressure exists. A series of task conditions with various configurations of priority-related task attributes was used to illuminate these processes and hypothesis. Hierarchical regression analyses provided evidence for the three cognitive components and suggested that these cognitive components played different roles under time pressure compared to performance under no time pressure. Three fundamental cognitive processes were identified in prioritization and provide implications for personnel selection and training for jobs demanding prioritization and multitasking in the real world.