Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on November 14, 2009

Cognitive control in media multitaskers – Eyal Ophira, Clifford Nassb, and Anthony D. Wagnerc, Symbolic Systems Program and Department of Communication, and Department of Psychology and Neurosciences Program, Stanford University

  • “Chronic media multitasking is quickly becoming ubiquitous, although processing multiple incoming streams of information is considered a challenge for human cognition. A series of experiments addressed whether there are systematic differences in information processing styles between chronically heavy and light media multitaskers. A trait media multitasking index was developed to identify groups of heavy and light media multitaskers. These two groups were then compared along established cognitive control dimensions. Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set. These results demonstrate that media multitasking, a rapidly growing societal trend, is associated with a distinct approach to fundamental information processing.”
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