Technology consumption and cognitive control: Contrasting action video game experience with media multitasking

Pedro Cardoso-Leite, Rachel Kludt, Gianluca Vignola, Wei Ji Ma, C. Shawn Green, Daphne Bavelier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Technology has the potential to impact cognition in many ways. Here we contrast two forms of technology usage: (1) media multitasking (i.e., the simultaneous consumption of multiple streams of media, such a texting while watching TV) and (2) playing action video games (a particular subtype of video games). Previous work has outlined an association between high levels of media multitasking and specific deficits in handling distracting information, whereas playing action video games has been associated with enhanced attentional control. Because these two factors are linked with reasonably opposing effects, failing to take them jointly into account may result in inappropriate conclusions as to the impacts of technology use on attention. Across four tasks (AX-continuous performance, N-back, task-switching, and filter tasks), testing different aspects of attention and cognition, we showed that heavy media multitaskers perform worse than light media multitaskers. Contrary to previous reports, though, the performance deficit was not specifically tied to distractors, but was instead more global in nature. Interestingly, participants with intermediate levels of media multitasking sometimes performed better than both light and heavy media multitaskers, suggesting that the effects of increasing media multitasking are not monotonic. Action video game players, as expected, outperformed non-video-game players on all tasks. However, surprisingly, this was true only for participants with intermediate levels of media multitasking, suggesting that playing action video games does not protect against the deleterious effect of heavy media multitasking. Taken together, these findings show that media consumption can have complex and counterintuitive effects on attentional control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-241
Number of pages24
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Volume78
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Keywords

  • AX-CPT
  • Action video games
  • Filter task
  • Media multitasking
  • N-back
  • Task-switching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language

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