Lecturer Weina Ran Wins 7k Grant to Study Effects of Multitasking

Lecturer Weina Ran Wins 7k Grant to Study Effects of Multitasking

Date posted: 2017-03-24 14:32:08

Dr. Weina Ran, Lecturer in the Department of Communication & Media, and her collaborator, Dr. Masahiro Yamamoto, an assistant professor of communication at the University at Albany, were recently awarded a grant (700,000 Japanese Yen, approximately $7,000 U.S. dollars) by the Hoso Bunka Foundation in Japan for the project titled “Effects of media multitasking and second screening on news comprehension.” The Foundation, established by Japan’s public service broadcaster, NHK-Japan Broadcasting Corporation, is an independent non-profit organization that promotes the cultural and technological development of broadcasting. 

This grant will be used to investigate the effects of multitasking and second screening on information processing and learning. Existing literature on multitasking indicates that performing multiple tasks concurrently or back and forth in quick succession reduces cognitive resources allocated to a main task and therefore decreases its task performance, suggesting that multitasking during news consumption interferes with audiences’ information processing and thus decreases knowledge acquisition. However, audiences sometimes engage in so-called second screening, or use of another digital device while watching television.  For example, audiences watch news on TV and simultaneously use another screen, such as a laptop, tablet, and smartphone, to seek relevant news information online or discuss news issues and events with others on social media.

Although second screening is a form of multitasking, it may present a positive effect on audiences’ information processing and knowledge acquisition, because of its complemental relationship with the main task, in this case news consumption. The current project will examine this competing possibility by conducting two-wave online survey of Japanese citizens.   

As television news increasingly encourages user participation (e.g., encourage viewers to post comments on social media while watching news) to increase interactivity and incorporate audience feedback, such efforts might prevent audiences from concentrating on processing news information and as a result gaining knowledge from news consumption. From this standpoint, this project will not only contribute to the literature on multitasking and second screening but also help inform broadcast content production.