Volitional media multitasking: awareness of performance costs and modulation of media multitasking as a function of task demand.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In two experiments, we sought to determine whether (a) people are aware of the frequently observed performance costs associated with engaging in media multitasking (Experiment 1), and (b) if so, whether they modulate the extent to which they engage in multitasking as a function of task demand (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, participants completed a high-demand task (2-back) both independently and while a video was simultaneously presented. To determine whether people were sensitive to the impact that the concurrent video had on primary-task performance, subjective estimates of performance were collected following both trial types (No-Video vs. Video trials), as were explicit beliefs about the influence of the video on performance. In Experiment 2, we modified our paradigm by allowing participants to turn the video on and off at their discretion, and had them complete either a high-demand task (2-back) or a low-demand task (0-back). Findings from Experiment 1 indicated that people are sensitive to the magnitude of the decrement that media multitasking has on primary-task performance. In addition, findings from Experiment 2 indicated that people modulate the extent to which they engage in media multitasking in accordance with the demands of their primary task. In particular, participants completing the high-demand task were more likely to turn off the optional video stream compared to those completing the low-demand task. The results suggest that people media multitask in a strategic manner by balancing considerations of task performance with other potential concerns.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ralph, BCW; Seli, P; Wilson, KE; Smilek, D

Published Date

  • March 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 84 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 404 - 423

PubMed ID

  • 30019269

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1430-2772

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0340-0727

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00426-018-1056-x


  • eng