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Sarah Fouquet, Evan Palmer; Multitasking Preferences, Multitasking Behaviors, and Dot Probe Detection in Multiple Object Tracking. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):543. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/12.9.543.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The media multitasking index (MMI) measures how often people tend to consume multiple forms of media simultaneously. Previous research has shown that high media multitaskers do not filter out background information as effectively as low media multitaskers, which results in poorer performance in some laboratory tasks (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner, 2009; Cain & Mitroff, in press). Another multitasking variable of interest is one’s work style preference, as measured by the multitasking preference inventory (MPI; Poposki & Oswald, 2010). Multitasking preferences and multitasking behaviors need not align, as when someone prefers to complete one task before starting another but works in an environment that demands tasks be left unfinished. This research project centers on two questions: 1) do multitasking behaviors correlate with multitasking preferences, and 2) might high media multitaskers’ broader cognitive style sometimes result in improved performance for some laboratory tasks? We administered both the MMI and MPI to 583 undergraduates. We found a modest but significant correlation between the MMI and MPI, r = .17, p <.01. Interestingly, multitasking behavior (MMI) was negatively correlated with age, r = -.09, p <.05, while multitasking preference (MPI) was positively correlated with age, r = .08, p <.05. Next, we invited people whose MMI and MPI scores were in either the upper or lower quartiles to participate in a laboratory study. Participants’ primary task was multiple object tracking and secondary task was probe dot detection. The dots appeared on or near a target or distractor at random times during each trial. Preliminary data indicate that, while maintaining perfect tracking performance, high multitaskers (both MMI and MPI) are better at detecting probe dots than their low multitasking counterparts. Interestingly, high multitaskers also tend to commit more false alarms, consistent with previous findings suggesting a lower threshold for filtering background noise.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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