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Reem Alzahabi, Mark W. Becker; In Defense of Media Multitasking: No Increase in Task-Switch or Dual-Task Costs. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):102. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.102.
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Extensive video game playing can increase one's attentional control and visual skills (Green & Bavelier, 2003). By contrast, Ophir, Nass, and Wagner (2009) suggest that heavy media multitaskers have decreased attentional control, particularly task switching ability. They suggest that this task switching deficit is surprising, considering that media multitaskers switch between tasks on a regular basis. However, it is possible that media multitaskers do not consistently switch between tasks, but rather, attempt to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. If so, they may show a deficit in task-switching performance because they must perform one, and only one, of two presented tasks. To investigate this issue, we used the Media Multitasking Index Questionnaire (Ophir, Nass, Wagner, 2009) to identify heavy and light media multitaskers and then tested both their task-switching and dual-task performance. Participants performed a number-letter task (Rogers & Monsell, 1995), in which they were to classify a number as odd or even and a letter as a consonant or vowel. Each participant completed both a task-switch and dual-task paradigm. The task-switch paradigm required switching between classifying the number or the letter across trials. The dual-task paradigm required the classification of both the number and the letter in each trial. In contrast to Ophir, Nass, and Wagner's (2009) findings, we found that heavy media multitaskers have a decreased switch cost compared to light media multitaskers, that is, they are able to switch between two tasks more efficiently. Furthermore, both groups showed comparable dual-task performance. These findings suggest that media multitasking does not interfere with attentional control and may even produce a better ability to switch between tasks.
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