Media multitasking, mind-wandering, and distractibility: A large-scale study

Wisnu Wiradhany*, Marieke K van Vugt, Mark R Nieuwenstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
198 Downloads (Pure)


Previous studies suggest that frequent media multitasking - the simultaneous use of different media at the same time - may be associated with increased susceptibility to internal and external sources of distraction. At the same time, other studies found no evidence for such associations. In the current study, we report the results of a large-scale study (N=261) in which we measured media multitasking with a short media-use questionnaire and measured distraction with a change-detection task that included different numbers of distractors. To determine whether internally generated distraction affected performance, we deployed experience-sampling probes during the change-detection task. The results showed that participants with higher media multitasking scores did not perform worse as distractor set size increased, they did not perform worse in general, and their responses on the experience-sampling probes made clear that they also did not experience more lapses of attention during the task. Critically, these results were robust across different methods of analysis (i.e., Linear Mixed Modeling, Bayes factors, and extreme-groups comparison). At the same time, our use of the short version of the media-use questionnaire might limit the generalizability of our findings. In light of our results, we suggest that future studies should ensure an adequate level of statistical power and implement a more precise measure for media multitasking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1112-1124
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception & Psychophysics
Issue number3
Early online date7-Aug-2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2020

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