People who consume lots of different media at the same time do worse when asked to switch tasks, leading researchers to worry about the long-term effect of media multitasking on work performance.
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Researchers at Stanford University said "chronic media multitasking" was quickly becoming ubiquitous, even though people find it hard to process multiple incoming streams of information.
They designed a series of experiments to test whether there were systematic differences in information processing styles between chronically heavy and light media multitaskers.
"Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant (information) and from irrelevant representations in memory," they said, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set," they said.