An interesting new study on multitasking and multi-sensory integration (behind a firewall):
Heavy media multitaskers have been found to perform poorly in certain cognitive tasks involving task switching, selective attention, and working memory. An account for this is that with a breadth-biased style of cognitive control, multitaskers tend to pay attention to various information available in the environment, without sufficient focus on the information most relevant to the task at hand. This cognitive style, however, may not cause a general deficit in all kinds of tasks. We tested the hypothesis that heavy media multitaskers would perform better in a multisensory integration task than would others, due to their extensive experience in integrating information from different modalities. Sixty-three participants filled out a questionnaire about their media usage and completed a visual search task with and without synchronous tones (pip-and-pop paradigm). It was found that a higher degree of media multitasking was correlated with better multisensory integration. The fact that heavy media multitaskers are not deficient in all kinds of cognitive tasks suggests that media multitasking does not always hurt….
Research so far has revealed the detrimental aspects of media multitasking, demonstrating impairments in different cognitive tasks in laboratories and real-world settings. This is certainly bad news for the younger generation, which embraces this multitasking lifestyle. The average MMI in the present study was 3.82, meaning that an average undergraduate may receive information from almost four media at the same time. However, while their breadth-biased processing style may have weakened their ability to focus on information relevant to the task on hand, it may actually be beneficial in certain situations. While, in many laboratory tasks, the source of relevant information is often well defined, in reality, unexpected environmental stimuli may carry important information, which may be better captured by individuals biased toward receiving information from many different channels, rather than processing information deeply from a single channel.