The fast-paced lifestyle, demands of work and family, have made many people good at switching between tasks like answering emails, talking on the phone, and even tuning in to a conference in Google meet. While this may make one look like Superman or Wonder Woman, a recent study showed that those tagged as heavy media users exhibited poorer memory as per test scores.
A study titled, "Memory failure predicted by attention lapsing and media multitasking," published in the journal Nature looked at the brains of 80 young adults with a mean age of 21.7, and their pupil sizes while they are trying to recall a number of events.
The researchers from Stanford Memory Lab compared the memory performances of individuals and determined that those who are considered as heavier media multitaskers, as well as those with lower sustained attention ability, performed poorly on memory tasks.
They underscored that the results of their study on the relationship between media multitasking and memory were a correlation and not a causation. They noted that more light will be shed on the subject as they could not yet say that heavy media multitasking could lead to experiencing memory failures and a degree of difficulty in sustaining attention.
Electroencephalography and pupillometry were used by researchers to measure the attention of the participants. They performed episodic encoding and retrieval tasks. The sustained attention of participants was likewise evaluated using a questionnaire and task-based measures.
The participants were shown images on a computer screen, explained Scientific American. They were then tasked to gauge the objects and classify them in accordance with their "pleasantness" or size. The participants were then given a 10-minute break and thereafter were shown additional objects. Then, they had to state whether the objects were new ones or were already classified.
The researchers then analysed the brain and eye responses of the participants as they were trying to remember. Amidst this, the researchers were able to pinpoint the lapses in their attention. Their observations were then compared to the questionnaire that participants answered, wherein they were asked to quantify their mind wandering, media multitasking, and everyday attention.
Kevin Madore, the lead author of the study, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford Memory Lab, in a press release said that the increase in alpha power at the back of the skull has been linked to mind wandering, distraction, and attention lapses.
Madore stated that through the study, they found evidence that the ability of an individual to sustain attention, helps in explaining the relationship between worse memory and heavier multitasking.