Investigating differences in the attention distribution strategies of high and low media multitaskers through a two-dimensional game



The rapid advancement of mobile computing devices and the ever-growing range of infotainment services they enable have cultivated high levels of media multitasking. Studies have considered the effects of this form of behaviour for cognitive control ability, with findings suggesting that chronic media multitasking is associated with reduced inhibitory control. In this study we advance knowledge in this domain by investigating differences in the attention distribution strategies of high and low media multitaskers (HMMs and LMMs) through a simple, two-dimensional game. 1 063 university students completed a web-based survey concerning their media multitasking behaviour and played the 2D game. Contributing to the ecological validity of the study the game was played within the respondent’s web-browser, as part of the survey, at a time and place (and on a computer) of their choosing. During gameplay one of two different banners, both irrelevant to the game, were displayed adjacent to the game. No instructions were provided in relation to the banners. Our analysis considered respondents’ performance in the game in relation to both their media multitasking and the content of the banner displayed. Our findings suggest that while HMMs attend to distracting stimuli independent of their content or salience, LMMs are more selective. This selectivity enables improved primary task performance when distracting stimuli are deemed unimportant. Additionally, we found that LMMs generally recalled banner information more accurately after the game was played.

Media multitasking; attention distribution; inhibitory control; distraction; recall; 2D game

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