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Multitasking Across Generations L. M. Carrier, L. Rosen, N. Cheever, S. Benitez, J. Chang CSU Dominguez Hills Presented at the Western Psychological Association’s.

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Presentation on theme: "Multitasking Across Generations L. M. Carrier, L. Rosen, N. Cheever, S. Benitez, J. Chang CSU Dominguez Hills Presented at the Western Psychological Association’s."— Presentation transcript:

1 Multitasking Across Generations L. M. Carrier, L. Rosen, N. Cheever, S. Benitez, J. Chang CSU Dominguez Hills Presented at the Western Psychological Association’s 88th Annual Convention, April 11, 2008 (Irvine, CA)

2 Ages Recoded into Generations Baby Boomers --> born Gen Xers --> born Net Geners --> born after 1978 originally intended to use 1979—not 1978—but one age group spanned 1979

3 Generational Effects on Multitasking? Older generations –grew up in environments with drastically fewer opportunities for multitasking –much less daily emphasis placed on doing more than one task at a time due to technology Younger generations –raised in very different social and technological environments –new technologies encourage or afford multitasking –might be engaging in radically different multitasking behaviors while mental and physical processes are in development –brain areas that control multitasking might be in development during multitasking behavior

4 Typical Teen? Playing video games and talking on the phone simultaneously

5 What is Multitasking? Two Possibilities –Task Switching alternating between two or more tasks –Simultaneous Performance of Tasks Parallel processing Present Study does not Distinguish between these

6 Summary of Prior Studies Net Geners are multitasking (Jeong & Fishbein, 2007; Jordan, Fishbein, Zhang, Jeong, Hennessy, Martin, & Davis, 2005) Some task combinations are multitasked more than others (Jeong & Fishbein, 2007; Jordan et al., 2005) possibly due to the cognitive demands of the individual tasks? –E.g., IMing frequency is associated with increased distractibility amongst NetGeners (Levine, Waite, & Bowman, 2007) Possibly because the short frequent attention bursts in IMing lend themselves to task switching

7 Purpose of Current Study Evaluate multitasking frequency of Net Geners relative to other generations Evaluate multitasking limitations of youngest generation –Comparison of multitasking patterns to other generations –Comparison of multitasking difficulty ratings to other generations

8 Method Overview Anonymous, online questionnaire 1,319 respondents from ages 11 to 60+ Data collected in Fall of 2007 Acquaintances of undergraduate students at a university in the Los Angeles area –Including online acquaintances –No geographical location was recorded

9 Participant Characteristics N = 1319 Females 772 (58.5%), Males 547 (41.5%) Caucasian 435 (33.0%), Latino 374 (28.4%), Black 239 (18.1%), Asian 212 (16.1%), [Missing 59 (4.5%)] –Reflects the ethnic composition of the LA Basin Baby Boomer 312 (23.7%), Gen X 182 (13.8%), Net Gen 825 (62.5%)

10 Looked at 12 Everyday Tasks, mostly technology-oriented Surfing the WWW Offline Computing IM/Chatting Using the Telephone Texting Playing Video Games Listening to Music Watching TV Eating Pleasure Reading Talking Face to Face

11 Main effect of task, F(11,14476) = , p < Main effect of generation, F(2,1316) = 68.86, p < Task X generation, F(22,14476) = 15.29, p < 0.001

12 Simple Effects Tests for Each Task TaskEffect?F (2,1316) =p value Surfing the WebYes52.83p < Offline Computer TasksYes8.74p < IMingYes72.43p < TextingYes60.08p < Playing Video GamesYes34.41p < Listening to MusicYes51.46p < EatingYes23.49p < Talking Face to FaceYes22.25p < Pleasure ReadingNo< 1p = Watching TVNo1.36p = TelephoningNo3.35p = ingNo3.18p = 0.042

13 Tasks Formed 66 Dual-Task Combinations All task combinations queried Self-report scale Do you… Not do either task? Do them, but not together? Do them together, with difficulty? Do them together, with ease?

14 Multitasking Effectiveness Distinguish between decision to multitask and ability to multitask –E.g., a person can choose to do two tasks at once yet not do them well Distinguish between perceived ease of multitasking and ability to multitask –E.g., a person can find it “easy” to do two particular tasks at once yet not do them well Our study looks only at multitasking choices and perceived ease

15 Part 1: Multitasking Frequency How much do people multitask? How much do Net Geners multitask? Comparisons across generations

16 Who Does These Tasks?

17 Baby Boomer Multitasking Choices Proportion of respondents who multitask given that they do both tasks singly

18 Gen Xer Multitasking Choices Proportion of respondents who multitask given that they do both tasks singly

19 Net Gener Multitasking Choices Proportion of respondents who multitask given that they do both tasks singly

20 Net Geners Multitask Most Task Combinations Frequency

21 Patterns of Multitasking Choices Highly Correlated Across Generations Correlations of proportions of multitaskers for each task combination ***p < ***

22 Doing More than One Thing at a Time Mean number of tasks performed simultaneously during “typical free time” at home –5.55 (SD = 2.55)

23 Net Geners Try to Do More Things at Once F (2,1316) = p < Post-hoc Comparisons Show That All Means are Sig. Different from each other.

24 Multitasking Quality Do Net Geners find it easier to multitask? Do Net Geners share the same multitasking limitations as other generations?

25 Which Tasks are Multitasked Most Often?

26 Net Geners Find it Somewhat Easier to Multitask No generation found any task combination difficult (>= 0.75 agreement) * Easy = < 0.50 of respondents reported as difficult + Mild = of respondents reported as difficult

27 Generations Agree on Which Task Combinations are Difficult ***p < ***

28 Summary of Findings Multitasking is the norm –For almost all task combinations –Across generations Likelihood of multitasking –Some task combinations multitasked more than others Pattern is the same across generations –Net Geners more likely to multitask than other generations –Net Geners do more tasks at the same time than other generations Difficulty of multitasking –Some task combinations more difficult than others Pattern is the same across generations –Net Geners less likely than other generations to report difficulty

29 Possible Interpretations Cognitive Load interpretation (after Fishbein & colleagues) –Tasks place a “load” on a general cognitive resource for multitasking –Different tasks place different loads depending upon the task characteristics –Net Geners have a larger source of the general cognitive resource than other generations –But Net Geners share the same physical and cognitive mechanisms that make some tasks place larger loads than others

30 What Governs the Choice of which Tasks to Multitask? Our data do not speak to this However, some possibilities are… –Conflict in sensory or response modalities E.g., video gaming and texting –Sustained vs. intermittent attention requirements –Practice with task or with components of task E.g., experience at texting –Amount of higher-level processing required E.g., listening to music vs. talking face to face –Conflict in physical demands of tasks

31 How can people do so many tasks at once? They likely are task switching, not dividing their attention Some tasks have “slack” time, in which attention can be diverted to another task –e.g., waiting for chat partner to respond while IMing

32 Multitasking Effectiveness There probably are costs Associated with Multitasking (task-switching) –And they might apply to all generations E.g., increased laptop use by contemporary college students in class is associated with lower final grades and the top two reported in-class distractions are one's own laptop use and other students' laptop use (Fried, 2008) However, the Present Study does not Measure Skill at Multitasking, only choice to multitask

33 Eating TV Music Phone F2F Eating Online Music TV Online Eating Music Texting Music Eating Online IM/Chat Phone Music Eating Online TV Phone 1.Online 2.Use Computer 3. 4.IM/Chat 5.Talk on Phone 6.Text Message 7.Video Games 8.Listen Music 9.Watch TV 10.Eat 11.Read 12.Talking f2f Number of Tasks at the Same Time When Have Free Time AGE GROUP N=135 N=208 N=335 N=329 N=312

34 Some Limitations Generation is confounded with biological age –Do Net Geners have fresh, young minds or do they have new and improved minds? Self-reports, not observations of performance Multitasking is defined loosely – could involve task-switching Conditions of task performance not critical or time-dependent –E.g., studying for a final exam –Looking at this now

35 Conclusions Net Geners ARE different in how often they multitask compared to older generations –They multitask more and report that is less difficult –But NOT different in choice of tasks to multitask or in relative ratings of difficulty of multitasking combinations Therefore, mixed support for hypothesis that Net Geners are multitasking masters


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