Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Societal trend of media multitasking is changing our cognitive control

Lin reviews some interesting work of Ophir et al. showing:
...that heavy media multitaskers (HMMs) performed worse on task switching than light media multitaskers (LMMs), likely because of HMMs' reduced ability to filter out interference from irrelevant stimuli and representations in memory. Their findings are surprising in that, intuitively, HMMs should be better at task switching (i.e., multitasking) because they frequently switch between tasks, a habit or expertise (if so) that should have helped them to be better multitaskers (task switchers). However, the findings are also not surprising in that...HMMs tend to be breadth-biased in their behaviors and are inclined to pay attention to a larger scope of information instead of focusing on a particular piece of information. Such a behavior or habit has conditioned them to be less selective when it comes to filtering information and tasks in front of them. In other words, HMMs may have developed a habit of treating all of the information in front of them with equal (or almost equal) amounts of attention instead of focusing their attention steadily on a particular task. As a result, they performed worse than LMMs did when they were asked to focus attention on selective pieces.

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