Who hasn’t queued up their favourite TV show to binge, settled in, hit play, and immediately picked up their phone to start scrolling?
Call it multitasking if you will, but science says it could be having a negative effect on our memories.
A team from Stanford University in the US wanted to find out how multitasking (more appropriately multiscreening) might be contributing to our abilities to recall … something.
At the heart of the research was finding the answer to the question, does multiscreening contribute to an increase in attention lapses and forgetfulness?
- Related: Eight ways to improve your memory
They did this by grabbing the biggest multiscreeners of them all – young adults, 80 of them – and put them through some scientific paces.
The participants were shown pictures on a computer screen. Ten minutes later, they were shown a second round of pictures, and asked to identify if they were bigger or smaller, more appealing or less appealing, or if they’d seen the picture before.
While this happened, they were monitored for brainwave activity and pupil changes, which would signal lapses in attention.
The participants were asked to self-report how much they multiscreened – like texting or browsing the internet while watching TV.
The researchers found the more the participant “multiscreened”, the more prone they were to lapses in attention.
“Translating basic science findings to real-world behaviours, we further show that heavier MMT (multiscreening) is associated with worse episodic memory, in part, because of a greater propensity to suffer more frequent or disruptive lapses of attention,” they wrote in their findings, published in Nature on Thursday.
How that looks on the couch: You’re half-watching the nightly news, half keeping an eye on your phone screen, waiting for it to light up with a text message. So you’re not really paying attention to the news, not 100 per cent.
The good news is, there’s a seemingly easy way to re-route your brain: Keep your phone in another room if you’re watching telly.