ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (7): 1195-1205.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2023.01195

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The relationship between media multitasking and creativity: Explanations from multiple perspectives

LI Ziying, LI Jiajing, JIANG Jiali, LEI Xiuya, MENG Zelong()   

  1. Department of Psychology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2022-03-11 Online:2023-07-15 Published:2023-04-23
  • Contact: MENG Zelong


Media multitasking refers to “the simultaneous or rapid alternation of multiple tasks, at least one of which is related to media use”. In recent years, the relationship between media multitasking and cognitive ability has received much attention from the academic community due to the widespread popularity of media multitasking among young people. In this paper, we sort out the relationship between media multitasking and creative thinking and creative behavior performance in terms of both process and output.
We found that there are two different patterns in the relationship between media multitasking and creative thinking: (1) media multitasking is positively related to divergent thinking and not to convergent thinking, and (2) media multitasking is positively related to both divergent and convergent thinking. In the case of the former, from the perspective of executive function, on the one hand, increased cognitive flexibility facilitates divergent thinking performance in heavy media multitaskers, while on the other hand, decreased inhibitory control makes it difficult to achieve the same superior performance in convergent thinking; in the case of the latter, from the perspective of attentional style, heavy media multitaskers who prefer scattered attention are not only better at divergent thinking tasks that require attentional flexibility, but this greater attentional breadth characteristic also makes them better at completing divergent thinking tasks that require attentional flexibility. This greater breadth of attention also allows them to have a broader associative horizon and access to more conceptual activation, thus enabling them to integrate different stimuli to form new connections, i.e., to have better convergent thinking performance. The subtle relationship between media multitasking and creative thinking may be related to the complexity of attentional functional influences, differences in creative thinking task properties, and the selection of assessment metrics, and these possibilities need to be tested in depth in the future. In addition, we found a positive relationship between media multitasking and creative behavior performance with supporting evidence from three sources: increased working memory capacity, emotional satisfaction or negative emotion activation, and contradictory coexistence of cognitive elements and their integration.
In summary, media multitasking has an overall nonnegative relationship with creativity, but it remains to be tested whether it varies with other individual or situational factors. Future research can further clarify this relationship by improving the realism of media multitasking scenarios simulated in the laboratory, adopting a more ecological approach to measure media multitasking and creativity simultaneously, selecting a more integrated assessment instrument, and using a longitudinal follow-up research design. The internal mechanisms of the relationship were validated by integrating the four perspectives of executive function, attentional style, emotional activation, and cognitive integration, exploring other factors that influence the relationship, and exploring effective ways to stimulate creativity through media multitasking in terms of delay effects and task formats.

Key words: media multitasking, creativity, executive function, attentional style

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