Media Multitasking May Not Always Be a Bad Thing, Experts Say

By Amy Taylor on May 01, 2012

Multitasking can keep you out of focus but experts suggest it has positive effects too.

Positive Effects of Multitasking

Reading a book, texting, watching TV, surfing the internet, and talking to someone over the phone at the same time can improve one’s ability to handle multiple tasks. While previous studies show that this kind of habit can have negative effects on one’s learning ability and memory, new studies reveal that it isn’t bad at all.

Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong believed that using information from various sources does have advantages. To prove whether such theory was right, they observed 63 people ages 19 to 28 on how multitasking affected their life. Participants were asked a series of questions to measure their multitasking lifestyle and were later set on a test. For instance, they were asked to find specific shapes on a computer screen filled with similar shapes which have changing colours. Some experiments include sounds which make finding the specified objects more difficult. At the end of the trial, their performance was assessed. It was found that those who are used to heavy multi-tasking perform better when the tone is played than when it was absent.

According to the researchers, although their findings don’t show any casual effect, there’s a big possibility that multitasking can positively affect certain cognitive abilities.

Media Multitasking Can improve Mood

In another study published in the Journal of Communication, researchers from Ohio State University wondered why despite the negative effects of multitasking, it remains popular. After a series of tests, they found that multitasking doesn’t actually make one more productive but – it makes them emotionally satisfied. 32 college students were asked to join the experiment. For 28 days, said students reported what media they used and what benefit they got from it. Each one was given a phone-like device where they will record all their media from computer to radio, mobile phone, and so on. They were also asked to record what specific tasks they did. For instance, if they used the computer, they stated if they browsed the web, watch videos, play games, etc.

During the course of the trial, they found that students who watch TV while reading a book are more emotionally satisfied than those who didn’t. They also found that students are more likely to multitask when they are faced with activities that require more cognitive skills.

Some Considerations

According to the lead author Zheng Wang, students felt satisfied because watching TV made the studying entertaining. But because it distracts them from focusing on their reading, students have not become productive.

The researchers also pointed out that people get easily used to media multitasking. They call it a ‘dynamical feedback loop’ which means that if a person multitasks today, he or she is more likely to multitask again tomorrow. Experts also warn that even though there’s an emotional reward, it can still affect their performance at work or in school.

 

Sources of this article:

http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/multitask.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17693737

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