Working with the television on: An investigation into media multitasking

Duncan Brumby, A Tajadura-Jiménez, Toit H Du, Anna Cox, Harry Griffin
in CHI EA '14: Proceedings of the Extended Abstracts of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Journal article


Many people can now bring the office home in the evening and work on a laptop computer while watching television. We conducted a lab-study to investigate the impact that this media multitasking habit has on stress and our ability to stay engaged with the content of a television show. Participants were required to complete a stressful mental arithmetic task, designed to simulate a demanding work-related activity, while watching a segment of a television documentary. To reflect the different ways that people can media multitask, participants were asked either to perform the work task continuously (concurrent multitasking), or during bursts (sequential multitasking). Results show that working on the stressful task was stressful - it did not matter whether the television was on or not, nor did it matter how the tasks were interleaved. There was some evidence that sequentially interleaving tasks allowed participants to maintain their engagement with the television show. Overall though the results of this preliminary study suggest that if people want to relax and become engrossed in a television show they should avoid working on a secondary device at the same time.