By Elyse Desmarais on May 17, 2016
How often do you find yourself surfing the web on your mobile phone or checking your email while watching TV? If you’re like most Americans, probably pretty often. Media multitasking is becoming a popular past-time in American culture, with the most multitasking taking place while watching television. Find just how much Americans are using multiple media devices at once and how this is affecting attention span and information retention.
In 2015, Hilde A. M. Voorveld, a professor of communications research at the University of Amsterdam, and Vijay Viswanathan, a professor in the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University published a study entitled Media Psychology that analyzed how people use various types of media while watching TV.
The study conducted by Voorveld and Viswanathan observed 273 American adults in the cities of Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Chicago, and Indianapolis over the course of several months. The findings revealed that “the amount of media multitasking someone does varies based on the type of content they are accessing as well as the time of day and whether other people are present.”
Some other important findings included:
Subjects were more likely to use multiple devices when watching TV alone
Internet access and owning a mobile phone increased media multitasking
Media multitasking happens most often in the morning and decreases throughout the day
Women, young adults, the college educated, and individuals who made less than $30,000 a year do the most multitasking
Subjects used the most devices while watching sports on TV
Adult subjects used the most number of devices while channel surfing
As you may have guessed, subjects that utilized media multitasking had “lower levels of information processing,” meaning they retained less information from television programs compared to those that were not multitasking.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison performed a similar study that aimed to reverse the affects media multitasking has on information retention and attention span. By utilizing mindfulness, researchers were able to see if activities, such as meditation, helped to alleviate these side effects. The findings revealed,
“…heavy media multitaskers benefited from a short meditation exercise in which they sat quietly counting their breaths.”
C. Shawn Green, UW-Madison psychology professor and senior author of the study, further explained that:
“…mindfulness task might be particularly useful to media multitaskers because it is, conceptually, somewhat the opposite of media multitasking…it’s deep focus on a single thing, and that single thing is not actually very demanding of your attention.”
As the habit of media multitasking continues to rise, it’s important for businesses and researchers to consider how this affects communicating with customers and survey respondents. For those performing research on customer feedback or insights via text message, it may be best to schedule messages to deploy at times when you assume your audience will be sitting down to watch television.
Want to learn more about media multitasking and automated text message communications? Get in touch!