Poster B28, Sunday, March 25, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Understanding the Effect of Media Multitasking on the Mind
Jesus J. Lopez1, Madison M. Liggett1, Joseph M. Orr1; 1Texas A&M University
Given the prevalence of multitasking in today’s society, it is critical to understand how multitasking affects the mind. Decades of cognitive research suggest that a ‘central bottleneck’ requires higher level cognitive functions to proceed serially; however, efficient multitasking requires parallel processing of multiple tasks. Moreover, neuroimaging results suggest that multiple goals can be held concurrently in the brain. It is unclear if frequent multitasking has led to an improvement of parallel processing abilities, perhaps at the expense of serial processing.This study examined whether the degree to which a person engages in media multitasking affects the balance between serial and parallel processing styles. Our hypothesis was that more frequent multitasking would lead to more efficient parallel processing at the expense of serial processing. Parallel processing was indexed by the classic divergent thinking paradigm, the AUT (Alternative Uses Task), and serial processing by the classic convergent thinking paradigm, the RAT (Remote Associates Test). 537 participants completed the Media Multitasking Index (MMI) as well as the RAT and AUT. Participants were randomly assigned to an online or in-person condition. Contrary to our predictions, MMI scores were found to be negatively associated with AUT scores, indicating that more time spent media multitasking is associated with less divergent thinking. There was no association between MMI and RAT scores. Online participants performed significantly worse on the AUT versus their in person counterparts, which may have profound implications for online data collection. Ongoing work is focused on using more direct measures of parallel and serial processing.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Goal maintenance & switching