Distraction Actions

Digital device overload linked to first impressions

Two people using laptops and smart phones simultaneously
Photo: Unsplash

Rice researchers examined the relationship between people who use multiple digital devices at once (known as media multitaskers) and how they perceive people they have never previously met. They found a link between spending too much time on digital devices and how first impressions are formed.

“As a result of smartphones, tablets and other devices being embedded in our lives, our attention is in high demand as we switch between multiple devices,” said Richard Lopez, a postdoctoral research fellow in psychology and the study’s lead author. “Because this form of activity is new to us, its impact on how we perceive and interact with the world and those around us is not well known. This is why we were prompted to explore this topic and conduct this study.

“Our results suggest that media multitasking may be linked to altered person perception in surprising and unintentional ways, with media multitaskers unknowingly taking in otherwise irrelevant information from their surroundings when they observe and make judgments about other people,” he said.

Lopez said that this study is a first step in finding links between media multitasking and how individuals perceive other people, and that he hopes future research will explore this topic, particularly among kids and teens. The study was co-authored by Julia Salinger of the University of Colorado Boulder, Todd Heatherton of Dartmouth College and Dylan Wagner of Ohio State University.

— Amy McCaig