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Media Multitasking Might Have Mental Upside

MONDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Media multitasking -- the use of more than one type of media or technology at the same time -- may have some positive effects, a new study suggests.

The potential negative mental aspects of media multitasking -- which is especially common in young people and could include instant messaging, music, Web surfing, emailing, online videos, computer games or social networking -- have received widespread publicity. But there's another side to the story, suggests the study, which was published April 12 in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Previous research has shown that media multitaskers tend to have deficits in certain areas of mental function, such as task switching, selective attention and working memory. This may be because multitaskers pay attention to multiple sources of information instead of focusing on information relevant to the task at hand.

The new study of 63 people aged 19 to 28, however, found that those who multitask frequently appear to be better at integrating information from multiple senses -- vision and hearing in this case -- when asked to perform a specific task.

"Although the present findings do not demonstrate any causal effect, they highlight an interesting possibility of the effect of media multitasking on certain cognitive abilities, multisensory integration in particular," researchers Kelvin Lui and Alan Wong, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in a journal news release. "Media multitasking may not always be a bad thing."

More information

The Pew Research Center has more on multimedia use in young adults.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, news release, April 12, 2012

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