People who are easily distracted by their cell phones do worse on memory tests

By Layal Liverpool

Multitasking can affect your memory

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Media multitasking, e.g. Such as scrolling through social media while watching a movie, can be associated with more attention deficit and difficulty remembering.

"Our data supports the idea that we should be aware of how we deal with the media," says Kevin Paul Madore of Stanford University in California. As part of a study with 80 participants between the ages of 18 and 26, he and his team compared the media multitasking values ​​reported by people themselves with their performance in a memory task.

The researchers specifically tested episodic memory, which helps us recall events by presenting participants with images of objects on a computer and later asking them to remember whether or not they had seen the objects before. At the same time, the team used EEG and eye tracking to monitor people's attention.


Madore and his colleagues also asked participants to fill out a questionnaire to determine how often they were involved in various forms of media multitasking, such as: B. SMS while watching TV or reading while listening to music. They found that people who reported more multitasking in the media had more attention deficit while performing the memory task, which was associated with increased difficulty remembering.

“I think that being conscious of attention and limiting potential distractions can go a long way in preparing for memory and reducing wandering or mind blindness,” says Madore. "It could be valuable to resist media multitasking during school lectures or work zoom, or to limit media multitasking to set times."

“Media multitasking is becoming increasingly important. We don't know about the effects yet, ”says Amy Orben of the University of Cambridge. "In a lot of technology studies, we ask people," How many hours do you spend with x? "," How many hours do you spend on social media? "," How many hours do you spend playing? "And we attract Don't record many times when they occur simultaneously."

Orben says it is important to investigate whether media multitasking causes attention and memory impairment, or whether there is some other factor, such as how generally distractible a person is, that might explain the connection. This could be explored through studies that monitor people over time, she says.

“On the days when you have more (media multitasking), does your memory diminish the next day? Or does the memory say one day that you multitask more the next day? I think it's a really interesting area to explore, ”Orben says.

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-020-2870-z

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