Multitasking – using multiple forms of media at the same time – may not be as bad for us after all and may even have an upside, according to surprising new research.
Chinese University of Hong Kong scientists have found people who frequently use different types of media at once appear to be better at integrating information from multiple senses - vision and hearing in this instance - when asked to perform a specific task.
In a study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, the researchers said media multitasking may help people learn how to better process various sources of information at the same time – a key skill in today’s fast-paced information-rich culture.
"Although the present findings do not demonstrate any causal effect, they highlight an interesting possibility of the effect of media multitasking on certain cognitive abilities, multisensory integration in particular,” they concluded. “Media multitasking may not always be a bad thing."
Many social scientists have decried the detrimental aspects of media multitasking – particularly on learning in young people who simultaneously send text messages, listen to music, surf the web, send e-mail, watch online videos, play computer games and engage in social networking.
But Hong Kong researchers Kelvin Lui and Alan Wong sound to determine whether such multitasking could have any advantages?
For the study, they tracked the media usage of 63 participants, aged 19-28 years. The participants were then asked to complete a task, while receiving information from at least three media at the same time.
Researchers found people who tended to use multiple media the most performed better in the task than those who multitasked least.