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For other uses, see multitasking (disambiguation)

Media multitasking is an aspect of divided attention which involves using TV, the Web, radio, telephone, print, or any other media in conjunction with another. Also referred to as "simultaneous media use," or "multicommunicating," this behavior has emerged as increasingly commonTemplate:When, especicially among younger media users,[1] and has gained significant attention in media usage measurement, especially as a new opportunity for cross-media advertising.[citation needed].

The expression second screen is used in conjunction with media multitasking.

Much of this multitasking is not inherently coupled or coordinated except by the user. For example a user may be browsing the Web, listening to music playing video games, using e-mail, or talking on the phone while watching TV.[2][3] More directly coordinated forms of media multitasking are emerging in the form of "coactive media" and particularly "coactive TV."

Research[edit | edit source]

A touchstone 2009 study by Stanford University published in PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, “Cognitive control in media multitaskers,” used experiments to compare heavy media multitaskers to light media multitaskers in terms of their cognitive control and ability to process information. Findings from the experiment include: 1) When intentionally distracting elements were added to experiments, heavy media multitaskers were on average 77 milliseconds slower than their light media multitasker counterparts at identifying changes in patterns; 2) In a longer-term memory test that invited participants to recall specific elements from earlier experiments, the high media multitaskers more often falsely identified the elements that had been used most frequently as intentional distracters; 3) In the presence of distracting elements, high media multitaskers were 426 milliseconds slower than their counterparts to switch to new activities and 259 milliseconds slower to engage in a new section of the same activity. The researchers conclude that the experiments “suggest that heavy media multitaskers are distracted by the multiple streams of media they are consuming, or, alternatively, that those who infrequently multitask are more effective at volitionally allocating their attention in the face of distractions.”[4]

A related article, "Breadth-biased versus focused cognitive control in media multitasking behaviors," also published in PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, notes that the prevalence of this phenomenon leads "to a question about the required skills and expertise to function in society. Society with its ever-increasing complexity seems to move people toward juggling among multiple tasks rather than focusing on one task for a long period." Further research, the study's author suggests, will be necessary as the effects on society become more pronounced: "The new technologies are gearing people, especially young people who grow up with digital technologies and wired networks, toward breadth-biased information processing behavior rather than linear in-depth study behavior. A long-term exposure to media multitasking is expected to produce both positive and negative outcomes on cognitive, emotional, and social development."[5]

There has been some research conducted on the effects of media multitasking on other cognitive outcomes such as learning. Mayer and Moreno[6] have studied the phenomenon of cognitive load in multimedia learning extensively and have concluded that it is difficult, and possibly impossible to learn new information while engaging in multitasking. Junco and Cotten examined how multitasking affects academic success and found that students who engaged in more multitasking reported more problems with their academic work.[7] A more recent study on the effects of multitasking on academic performance found that using Facebook and text messaging while studying were negatively related to student grades, while online searching and emailing were not.[8] These negative effects of media multitasking on learning have been observed in a number of studies.[9][10]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wallis, Claudia (March 19, 2006), "The MultiTasking Generation", Time Magazine,,9171,1174696,00.html . Wallis describes a survey by Donald F. Roberts and others for the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that kids' multitasking led them to pack a daily average of 8.5 hours of media viewing into 6.5 hours of time spent interacting with electronic media.
  2. includeonly>Wallis, Claudia. "genM: The Multitasking Generation", 'Time Magazine', March 2006. Retrieved on 15 May 2011.
  3. includeonly>Wallis, Claudia. "genM: The Multitasking Generation", 'Time Magazine', March 2006. Retrieved on 15 May 2011.
  4. Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers. Journalist's
  5. Breadth-biased versus focused cognitive control in media multitasking behaviors. PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
  6. Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.
  7. Junco, R. & Cotten, S. (2010). Perceived academic effects of instant messaging use. Computers & Education, 56(2), 370-378.
  8. Junco, R. & Cotten, S. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59(2), 505–514.
  9. Wood, E., Zivcakova, L., Gentile, P., Archer, K., De Pasquale, D., & Nosko, A. (2012). Examining the impact of off-task multi-tasking with technology on real-time classroom learning. Computers & Education, 58(1), 365–374.
  10. Rosen, L. D., Lim, A. F., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2011). An empirical examination of the educational impact of text message-induced task switching in the classroom: educational implications and strategies to enhance learning. Psicologia Educativa, 17(2), 163–177.
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