Study Finds Link between Media Multitasking and Poor Memory

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. recall / rɪˈkɔl / (v) – to remember something

    I last saw her 15 years ago, so I can no longer recall her face.

  2. concurrently / kənˈkɜr ənt li / (adv) – at the same time

    My phone slows down when several apps are running concurrently.

  3. distraction / dɪˈstræk ʃən / (n) – something that makes it difficult to focus on something else

    I like working at night because there are fewer distractions.

  4. lapse / læps / (n) – a brief moment of failure to focus or remember

    The chess player lost because of a lapse of concentration.

  5. attentiveness / əˈtɛn tɪv nɪs / (n) – the quality of being able to pay attention closely to something or someone

    The hotel has very good ratings because of its staff’s attentiveness to the guests’ needs.


Read the text below.

A new study has found that media multitasking, which refers to using different devices or apps at the same time, could lead to poor memory.

Researchers from Stanford University wanted to determine if media multitasking could influence people’s ability to recall things. They designed an experiment to find the relationship between memory and multitasking.

To test the participants’ memory, the researchers asked 80 people aged 18 to 26 to look at different sets of images on a screen. The participants had to pinpoint any changes to the images while the researchers monitored their brain activity and pupil size. Afterward, the researchers measured the participants’ multitasking abilities by asking them how often and how well they could use multiple media concurrently within an hour.

After comparing the participants’ results from the memory task and media multitasking reports, the researchers found that heavier media multitaskers performed badly on the memory activity.

Kevin Madore, the study’s lead author, explained that heavy multitaskers may have difficulty paying attention, which could be affecting their ability to retain information. He said that this difficulty could be lessened by being aware of potential distractions and limiting them.

However, the researchers emphasized they are not claiming that media multitasking causes poor memory and attention lapses. They said that their findings simply suggest a relationship between the two factors.

Still, the researchers hope that their study can aid in the development of interventions to help improve people’s attentiveness and memory. Such interventions could be useful for people experiencing brain illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think it’s possible for people to avoid media multitasking in this digital age? Why or why not?
• After reading the article, will you change the way you engage with multiple devices or apps? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• What are some common things that take people’s attention from what they’re doing (e.g. noise, social media)? Discuss.
• Do you think it’s possible to completely remove distractions when you’re working on something? Why or why not?