Many people who text while watching TV or listen to music while reading cannot hold their attention to one task. However, a new study has revealed that through mindfulness meditation, heavy media multitaskers may adapt a more focused attention.
Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison found that heavy media multitaskers made greater strides than their low multitasker counterparts after meditation.
“In general, people perform better after this mindfulness task,” said Thomas Gorman, first author of the study.
“But we found a significant difference for heavy media multitaskers. They improved even more on tests of their attention,” Gorman added in the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Previous studies have shown that people who most often let several types of media overlap can be distracted in the moment, but also score poorly on tests that assess attention even when the media sources are absent.
“Most of us who study media multitasking think that monitoring lots of sources constantly — instead of devoting yourself to one thing — induces a more distributed attentional state,” stated C Shawn Green, stated senior author.
The participants — comprising people who reported frequent media multitasking and those who rarely combine media — spent parts of two days taking standard tests that measure their attention.
On one day, the attention tests were interspersed with Web browsing. On the other, each test was preceded by 10 minutes of the breath-counting exercise.
“It’s deep focus on a single thing, and that single thing is not actually very demanding of your attention,” Greens stated.
The results revealed that heavy media multitaskers scored worse than light media multitaskers all around and both groups posted better attention scores right after counting breaths.
Heavy media multitaskers benefited from a short meditation exercise in which they sat quietly counting their breaths and for them sharpening their focus may be as simple as breathing.
“However, one thing the presence of the short-term effects suggests is that the attentional system in heavy media multi-taskers isn’t intractably affected. It is possible for heavy media multitaskers to adopt a more focused attentional state,” the authors stated.