The Effect of Media Multitasking on Online Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior (MULTIPLE)

Digital devices and portable media platforms have become integral parts of people's lives, causing increased online activities and an inclination for simultaneous consumption of different media (known as media multitasking, a.k.a MMT). Extant research suggested that MMT causes cognitive strain and emotions and influences an individual's information processing abilities, likely influencing one's online social behavior (OSB) (pro and antisocial). Project MULTIPLE examines how multiple dimensions (task hierarchy, emotional content of the task, and time pressure) of MMT activities may influence emerging adults' engagement in online (pro and anti) social behavior. The specific research goals of the project are as follows:

  1. To determine how the changes in task hierarchy (paying attention to one task over another task vs. equal attention to all the tasks) combined with the emotional content (positive vs. negative) of the tasks influences individuals' engagement in online prosocial and antisocial (specifically online aggression) behavior.
  2. To determine whether the inclusion of time pressure (high vs. low) in the interaction of task hierarchy and the emotional content of the tasks influences individuals' engagement in OSB.
  3. To identify the underlying mechanisms (i.e., mediators, e.g., frustration, cognitive load) and moderators (e.g., tendency to express online, impulsivity) to understand the said relationship.

Finally, the empirical studies will be conducted with a methodological innovation that enables the integration of eye movement, computer-based experiments, and questionnaire data to study the behavior process comprehensively.

The project MULTIPLE contributes to the scientific literature by 1. Consider the multidimensional component of MMT and rigorously analyze how it affects OSB through controlled experiments, eye tracking, and questionnaire-based methods. 2. Determining the causal processes and moderating factors explaining the proposed model (WP2 & WP3). The project will create a cross-disciplinary theoretical framework (information and communication theory, cognitive and media theories). The findings will also contribute to the public discussions on MMT benefits and drawbacks. It will help create guidelines for improving the work environment in several organizations relying on MMT (e.g., call centers). Further, the verified models can guide users in choosing MMT combinations that produce the least cognitive and emotional effects. This leads to a balance between work and online conduct and improves wellbeing.

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Project Period: 2024 - 2025
Investor: European Research Executive Agency (REA) – under call Horizon Europe: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action Fellowship
Project number: 101109073

Researchers: Shanu Shukla, Hana Machackova

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