You can drive a car while listening to a song, but when you want to see better, you instinctively lower the radio volume in the car. You can listen to a melody while doing chores, but when you want to hear better, you inevitably stop and squint your eyes. The American President Lyndon Johnson once claimed that his political opponent Gerald Ford could not pass wind and chew gum at the same time. Such quotidian observations seem to suggest that there may be some natural constraints in our ability to do multiple tasks simultaneously.
In our daily life, we perform many actions without complete cognitive control. You may drive the car while lost deep in thought and later exclaim that you can’t recall the route you traveled. Or you have the nagging feeling that you have forgotten to lock the door but after checking you discover that you had indeed locked it. The German mathematician David Hilbert(1862-1943) was so absent-minded that once he went to the bedroom to change clothes for an evening dinner, but instead ended up going directly to sleep. This article examines the basis of such phenomena from the standpoint of cognitive psychology, neuroscience and integral psychology.