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Publication Date

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Valerie Carr


long-term memory, media multitasking, online learning, recognition

Subject Areas

Psychology; Educational psychology; Experimental psychology


Mobile devices bring the digital world to our fingertips, but along with this convenience often comes distraction. Prior research on media multitasking (i.e., using media while performing other tasks) suggests that it can negatively impact cognitive processes and, in turn, academic performance. The aim of this study was to examine whether a similar relationship exists between media multitasking and memory for online lecture content. We recruited 94 college students for an online study to watch a TED talk recording, take a recognition test, and complete a series of self-report questionnaires regarding learning environment preferences and media multitasking habits. Participants reported engaging in more media multitasking when learning online than in the classroom, and most participants noted a preference for in-person learning given that there were fewer distractions and fewer opportunities to multitask. Although day-to-day media multitasking habits did not correlate with memory performance, habitual media multitaskers were more likely to be distracted by media during the study than those without such habits. In turn, participants who used media during the study performed worse on the memory test for online lecture content than those who did not. Taken together, these findings suggest that increased rates of media multitasking when learning online vs. in-person may have negative consequences on learning outcomes.