Competing tasks as measures of intelligence and predictors of job performance

PhD Thesis

Dolph, Bradley. 2012. Competing tasks as measures of intelligence and predictors of job performance. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Competing tasks as measures of intelligence and predictors of job performance

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorDolph, Bradley
SupervisorFogarty, Gerard
Li, Yan
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages316

This series of studies investigated a new measure of cognitive ability, the Multi-Tasks test, its place within the structure of intelligence and its usefulness in predicting job performance. The Multi-Tasks test employed a competing task methodology, being the simultaneous performance of two cognitive tasks, which has been shown to have a significant relationship with intelligence and job performance, particularly for complex jobs. The competing tasks methodology has a long history in psychology research and has recently experienced a resurgence of interest as technological advances (e.g., the Internet) have made it easier to administer these measures within the workplace. In the pilot study (Part A of Study 1) the means, reliability and demographic group differences of the measure were investigated. In Part B of Study 1 and Studies 2 and 3, the reliability and predictive validity of the test was compared to measures of general mental ability (crystallized and fluid intelligence) which have been widely used in personnel selection. Crystallized intelligence measures are language based and influenced by culture and education, whereas fluid intelligence tasks typically draw on non-verbal reasoning and are unaffected by education.
These measures feature prominently in the Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory of Cognitive Abilities, which forms the theoretical basis for these studies. In Study 2 and Study 3, additional cognitive measures were added to further elucidate the place of Multi-Tasks within the intelligence model, including a measure of short-term memory (Gsm in the CHC Theory). Previous research shows short-term memory and a related concept working memory, to be important in performance on the Multi-Tasks test. Further, the reliability and predictive validity of Multi-Tasks was compared to a personality measure (the Big Five model of personality) in Study 2, which is also widely used in job selection.
In all studies the Multi-Tasks test had high reliability, and it was found to be a more reliable measure than the general mental ability measures in Study 1 (Part B), Study 2 and Study 3. In Study 1 (Part B) it was more highly correlated with the fluid than the crystallized intelligence measure. The addition of the short-term memory task in Study 2 revealed that the highest correlation was between Multi-Tasks and Gsm, however this factor did not appear in Study 3 and Multi-Tasks was, as per Study 1, a Gf measure. These findings support previous research demonstrating that the measure is likely to be relatively independent of the influence of culture and language and that it draws on working memory ability. All studies showed Multi-Tasks to be a good predictor of job performance. It strongly predicted two of three measures of job performance in Study 1 (Part B), three of four measures in Study 2 and it was positively associated with 1 out of 3 job performance indicators in Study 3. The other cognitive measures also predicted some measures of job performance in all studies, but not as strongly or consistently as Multi-Tasks. Study 3 demonstrated that the factor structure and reliability of the measure in a sample of Chinese workers was comparable to previous studies, which indicates that the measure is not affected by culture and can be employed cross-culturally. Other group differences in performance on the Multi-Tasks test were not consistent between studies, however where they did exist they showed older and more highly educated workers to perform better. This supports research showing that the Multi-Tasks test shows promise as a predictor of performance in complex jobs and managerial potential.
There were a number of limitations discussed and many opportunities for further research. Overall the results of these studies indicate that the Multi-Tasks test shows promise as a valid, reliable, culturally unbiased measure of job performance that is suitable for a variety of job roles, both in Australia and cross-culturally, and may be particularly useful as an indicator of management potential. As a new test, further research to replicate these findings is encouraged.

Keywordscompeting tasks; multi-tasks; CHC theory; attention; working memory; job performance; culture; culturally unbiased
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520499. Cognitive and computational psychology not elsewhere classified
529999. Other psychology not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Sciences
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