Effects of Online Multitasking on Reading Comprehension of Expository Text

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Much of college students’ computer use, including for academic reading, occurs under conditions of multitasking. In three experiments, we investigated their technology use and habitual multitasking and the learning effects of multitasking with online communication while reading expository text. In Experiment 1 (n = 35), participants engaged in a primary content learning task and a secondary communication task either sequentially or concurrently. Experiment 2 (n = 90 ) used a modified primary learning task involving reading comprehension and recall with a within-subjects design, wherein task difficulty (easy, difficult) and condition (sequential, concurrent) were within-subjects factors. Experiment 3 (n=40) used a moderately difficult task with condition (sequential, concurrent) as a within-subjects factor and a filler task for participants in the concurrent condition. Our results suggested that our college student participants were comfortable with technology and reported that on average they multitasked with four other activities while reading. Across the three experiments, we found no evidence that multitasking while reading disrupted content learning, reading comprehension, and recall. On the contrary, we found a beneficial effect of multitasking for the easy task (Experiment 2) and a trend toward a beneficial effect for the moderately difficult task (Experiment 3). We discuss possible explanations for why multitasking might enhance performance at lower levels of cognitive load and identify future directions for research.

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Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace





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In Copyright