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Timo Mäntylä



After my PhD in 1987 at Umeå universitet 1987 I have been employed at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm University and as professor in psychology at Umeå University. Since April 2011 I am professor of Cognitive Psychology here at the Department of Psychology. I have been a guest researcher at the University of Toronto, Canada, Tsukuba University in Japan and University of Trento in Italy.


I lecture primarily in courses on cognition and research methods at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I supervise six graduate students.


In addition to interest in memory functions my research has focused on basic cognitive functions across the life span. Another central theme in my ongoing research examines similarities and differences among higher cognitive functions by focusing on decision making, metacognitive functions and executive control functions. A related project investigates individual differences in mulitple task performance and its relation to higher cognitive functions.

My ongoing research is funded by the Swedish Research Council and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond:

Individual differences in multitasking

Many daily activities require scheduling and interleaving of multiple tasks within a limited time frame. Multitasking implies dealing with multiple goal-directed tasks, and is often necessary in order to successfully coordinate and navigate through numerous everyday activities. A core feature of multitasking is the requirement for temporal integration and monitoring of overlapping action sequences within limited time frames. How people allocate limited cognitive resources to multiple concurrent tasks is a topic of considerable theoretical and practical interest, especially in our dynamic e-society. Despite its ubiquitous requirement, theoretical knowledge and practical guidelines about multitasking is very limited. The overall aim of this project is to investigate cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying everyday multitasking. The project reflects both theoretical and applied perspectives, focusing on individual differences in multitasking and their neural correlates. Responding to concerns about adolescents' (and many adults') extensive media multitasking, a more applied goal of the proposal is to investigate effects and consequences of media multitasking on cognitive control functions, memory and related higher cognitive functions.

Aging and decision-making competence

Decision-making skills are critical for preserving physical and psychological well-being in older adulthood. A central aim of the project is to investigate how older adults perceive and evaluate decision problems in their real life, and to understand how the aging decision makers interact with the environment in order to cope with cognitive and emotional changes. A related aim is to develop standardized instruments for the objective assessment of individual and age-related differences in judgment and decision-making competence. A more applied contribution of the project is to develop theoretically and empirically-justified guidelines for effective forms of decision support, which can be positively accepted by elderly people. The results of the project will advance our knowledge of how elderly adults handle and cope with complex everyday decision tasks while their physical and cognitive resources are gradually reducing. The present project will also provide insights and explicit guidelines for decision aiding in older adults.

Temporal cognition in children and adults

Sense of time is a prerequisite to most higher-order cognitive functions, including autobiographic memory, theory of mind and executive control functions. Although the empirical study of psychological time is well over a century old, its dominating psychophysical paradigms do not capture these complexities. We propose a memory-based approach in which experienced time is assumed to reflect basic memory functions and associated control functions, rather than being determined by a discrete ticking pacemaker or a "mental clock". A central methodological goal of the project is to develop a valid and reliable paradigm for examining temporal information processing within the complexities of everyday cognition. A series of empirical studies will examine the notionthat experienced time reflects individual and developmental differences in working memory (executive functioning), episodic memory, semantic memory and procedural memory. The findings may have important theoretical and clinical implications for understanding disorders of goal-directed behavior and some expressions of psychopathology.

Selected research administration

Recent publications

Del Missier, F., Hansson, P., Parker, A., Bruine de Bruin, W., Nilsson, L.-G., & Mäntylä, T. (in press). Unraveling the aging skein: Disentangling sensory and cognitive predictors of age-related differences in decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

Todorov, I., Del Missier, F., Konke, L. A., & Mäntylä, T. (in press). Deadlines in space: Selective effects of coordinate spatial processing in multitasking. Memory & Cognition. DOI: 10.3758/s13421-015-0529-z

Del Missier, F., Visentini, M., & Mäntylä, T. (2015). Option generation in decision making: Ideation beyond memory retrieval. Frontiers in Psychology, 5:1584, 127-148).

Del Missier, F., Mäntylä, T., & Nilsson, L. G. (2015). Aging, memory, and decision making. In T. M. Hess, C. E. Loeckenhoff, & J.-N. Strough (Eds.), Aging and decision-making: Empirical and applied perspectives (pp. 127-148). Elsevier Academic Press.

Del Missier, F., Mäntylä, T., Hansson, P., Bruine de Bruin, W., Parker, A., & Nilsson, L.-G. (2013). The multifold relationship between memory and decision making: An individual-differences study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 1344-1364.

Mäntylä, T., & Todorov, I. (2013). Questioning Anecdotal Beliefs and Scientific Findings. A Reply to Strayer, Medeiros-Ward, and Watson (2013). Psychological Science, 24, 811-812.

Mäntylä, T. (2014). Gender differences in multitasking reflect spatial ability. Psychological Science, 24, 514-520.

Todorov, I., Del Missier, F., & Mäntylä, T. (2014). Age differences in multiple task monitoring. PLoS ONE, 9(9): e107619.

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