Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 390–401 | Cite as

Media multitasking and behavioral measures of sustained attention

  • Brandon C. W. Ralph
  • David R. Thomson
  • Paul Seli
  • Jonathan S. A. Carriere
  • Daniel Smilek


In a series of four studies, self-reported media multitasking (using the media multitasking index; MMI) and general sustained-attention ability, through performance on three sustained-attention tasks: the metronome response task (MRT), the sustained-attention-to-response task (SART), and a vigilance task (here, a modified version of the SART). In Study 1, we found that higher reports of media multitasking were associated with increased response variability (i.e., poor performance) on the MRT. However, in Study 2, no association between reported media multitasking and performance on the SART was observed. These findings were replicated in Studies 3a and 3b, in which we again assessed the relation between media multitasking and performance on both the MRT and SART in two large online samples. Finally, in Study 4, using a large online sample, we tested whether media multitasking was associated with performance on a vigilance task. Although standard vigilance decrements were observed in both sensitivity (A') and response times, media multitasking was not associated with the size of these decrements, nor was media multitasking associated with overall performance, in terms of either sensitivity or response times. Taken together, the results of the studies reported here failed to demonstrate a relation between habitual engagement in media multitasking in everyday life and a general deficit in sustained-attention processes.


Attention Cognitive and attentional control 


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon C. W. Ralph
    • 1
  • David R. Thomson
    • 1
  • Paul Seli
    • 1
  • Jonathan S. A. Carriere
    • 1
  • Daniel Smilek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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