Study of the Day: Media Multitaskers May Have Sharper Senses

Those who juggle several devices at the same time are more adept at integrating information from multiple senses, new research shows.

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

PROBLEM: Media multitasking gets a bum rap. Previous experiments in the lab and in real-life situations have demonstrated poorer performance during cognitive tests involving task switching, selective attention, and working memory. But is there also an upside to using multiple gadgets at once?

METHODOLOGY: The Chinese University of Hong Kong researchers Kelvin Lui and Alan Wong recruited frequent and light media multitaskers, aged 19-28 years, to explore the differences in their tendency and ability to capture information from seemingly irrelevant sources. They asked the subjects to complete questionnaires on their media habits and take part in a visual-search task that occasionally required audio-visual synchronization.

RESULTS: The participants who simultaneously use several devices the most tended to be more efficient at multisensory integration. That is, the frequent multitaskers performed better than the light multitaskers in the visual-search task when the audio cue was present and worse when it was absent.

CONCLUSION: Experienced media multitaskers who routinely take in information from numerous sources are better at integrating information from multiple senses as well.

SOURCE: The full study, "Does Media Multi-Tasking Always Hurt? A Positive Correlation Between Multitasking and Multisensory Integration," is published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Health

Just In