Effects of Divided Attention on Working and Long-Term Memory
Journal of Advanced Student Sciences (JASS)
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In today’s classroom, students commonly watch videos, play games, or browse the internet while completing homework or participating in class. With the increasing use of technology in all aspects of our life, research into the effects of multitasking has increased in relevance. We aimed to evaluate whether distractions would impact working and long-term memory and to what extent. We hypothesized that visual and cognitive distraction would decrease the encoding of working memory and subsequent consolidation of long term memory directly and indirectly via inducing stress. Participants were assigned to one of two groups: a control group with no distractions or a treatment group exposed to a distraction. Both groups listened to a list of selected phrases and took a quiz at the end of the recording to evaluate their recognition of those phrases. This was done to assess the effects of distractions on working memory. Participants came back a week after their initial testing to assess their long-term memory with a similar quiz. Heart rate, respiration rate, and electrodermal activity were measured to evaluate stress. Results showed a difference in the week one quiz between the control and treatment group (p-value of 0.0002) and between quiz two of the control vs. treatment (p-value of 0.0002). These results suggest that students who use technology while studying or in class do significantly worse on multiple choice quizzes. All other physiological measures comparing treatment vs. control were not significant (p-value of 0.50, p-value of 0.71, and p-value of 0.36). Future studies can be enhanced by increasing the number of participants and investigating the effects of other sensory distractions on working and long-term memory.
An article that appeared in JASS, issue 2018