Friday, October 28, 2016

Multitasking and Political Knowledge

A 2016 study found that multitasking reduces factual knowledge but increases "subjective" knowledge. In other words, multitasking makes you feel informed, but it actually makes you less informed about politics and public affairs. Let that sink in. Multitasking = Bad. This fits their theoretical argument that we have a limited cognitive capacity. Or, as they put it, in standard academese (bold face added by me):
Given that cognitive resources are limited, resources available to a primary task necessarily become lower when one engages in two or more secondary tasks than when one performs a single secondary task (David et al., 2015). In other words, the more activities one concurrently performs, that is, the more complex tasks become, the more scattered attention to a primary task becomes. Individuals' attention to political news is more dispersed when, for example, they text friends and check friends' Facebook status updates than when they only perform one activity. As a result, those who engage in more than one media activity during news consumption learn less from news media and therefore have lower levels of factual political knowledge.
And even better is this. Read it.
Then, why do frequent multitaskers exhibit such tendencies and hold overinflated views of their political knowledge? It is possible that exposure to political news with shifting attention back and forth between the primary task and secondary tasks leads to the fa├žade of learning and the misperception in multitaskers that they have learned something even if their understanding is not comprehensive.
Very important, the difference between being informed and the perception of being informed, and the notion that multitasking, something we all do, inflates our perceptions of being informed when, actually, it makes us less informed. Think of that as people tickle their Twitter feed while watching the news, or a debate, or whatever.

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