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WVUCommMOOC Media-multitasking Lecture 2

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Elizabeth Cohen

on 10 October 2016

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Transcript of WVUCommMOOC Media-multitasking Lecture 2

Limitations of Cognitive Capacity
The Trouble with Media Multitasking:
A Cognitive Perspective

2. Limitations of Working Memory
Working memory:
3. Limitations of Attentional
Attention can be hijacked or consciously directed
Influences on Attention
Allows only some info to enter into consciousness

“Search Light of Attention” -
we regularly scan for things needing attention. Things falling within this
search light beam are processed
preferentially, with greater focus

Example of Hijacked Attention: automatic attention shift in response to an object coming quickly towards you

Example of Consciously Directed Attention: “Cocktail Party Effect” – selectively attending to one conversation in a noisy room
Tasks that demand more attention, use up attentional resources, making it increasingly more difficult to selectively attend to other objects in the environment

In other words, we have limited capacity to direct our attention
Attentional Blink
A short time when incoming information is not registered
provides temporary storage for the brain (like RAM in a computer).
Working Memory Capacity Demonstration Part 1
Find the answer to the following question as quickly and accurately as possible.
Lucy came before Jane. Kathy arrived after Jane. Suzy came before Lucy.
Who came first?

Who came second?
Working Memory Capacity Demonstration Part 2
Find the answer to the following question as quickly and accurately as possible. But this time, keep saying "the-the-the-the" while you are formulating the answer.
Tom arrived after Steve. John came before Steve. Mike arrived before John.
Who came first?

Who came second?
Attention Exercise 2
Attention Exercise 1
1. Attentional Resources
2. Working Memory Capacity
3. Processing Speed
Limitations of Cognitive Capacity
the amount of information
the brain can handle
Kahneman’s (1973) capacity theory: we have a pool of resources for cognitive processes, and when a particular task demands lots of processing resources, then other tasks get fewer resources.
Sensitivity to Interference
1. Distractions
2. Diversions
3. Multitasking
Why does
1. Limitations of Processing Speed
Limits of Working Memory
Brain can only temporarily "store" so many objects in the working memory

on average about 7 objects (plus/minus 2)

give or take 30 seconds
EX: Rehearsing a phone number: 293-3905 (and for those high working memory capacity, reciting the same number backward: 5093-392)
The more objects
working memory tries
to juggle, the more
likely it is that
objects will be
the process by which the mind chooses to focus on some things and ignore others
Limits on Directed Attention
Dividing attention, and attending to
more than one sources of visual
information decreases performance

You look at the gorilla, but you don't
see the gorilla
Stroop Task
gives the brain two conflicting signals

When asked to name the color of the ink, we tend to say the name the word represents

Directed attention must be used to inhibit the knee-jerk response, and report on something else

But this task demands a lot of our attentional resources (as evidenced by how long it takes to do the task)
Say the color (not what the word says) of each
word out loud, as quickly as you can.
Brain functions as a communication network

Some paths are better connected than others, and thus, some information processing occurs at a quicker speed
Different types of interference can spread thin the brain's cognitive processes (which, already have limited cognitive capacity).
Cognitive processing bottlenecks in the brain decrease our performance when multitasking
OPTIONAL DEMO: Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures the time it takes you to recognize associations between two concepts. This is one measure of processing speed (
Cognitive processing bottleneck occurs during multitasking because the prefrontal cortex
forces serial, one-object-at time processing

If more than one task demands processing, it takes more time, to get through the bottle neck
Prefrontal Cortex
"The Brain's Bouncer"
Decides what information should be processed and which information should be ignored

Processes two tasks needing attention, by rapidly switching back and forth between tasks
The Myth of Multitasking: The brain does not actually process multiple
tasks at the same time
People's ability to direct attention is not necessarily related to their ability to ignore information
The Bottleneck
Brain's cognitive functions have
limited capacity
, limiting how much we can attend to and process

Brain can only process one task at a time, switching between multiple tasks creates a
and lost time while the brain determines which tasks to perform.

Consequently, rather than increasing productivity, multitasking tends to have a negative effect on how accurately and efficiently we perform tasks
The Trouble with Multitasking
in a Nutshell
Research suggests it takes about 4 times longer to complete a tasks while you are also
doing something else
WVUCommMooc Week 4, Lecture 2
Elizabeth L. Cohen, Ph.D.

Discussion Questions
What types of media interference do you think you have the hardest time ignoring, and why?
2. The prefrontal cortex is the last area in the brain to develop, and usually isn't finished developing until people are in their 20's. What do you think are the implications of this late development for the effects of media multitasking?
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