Evaluating the Relationship Between Multimedia Viewing, Sedentary Behavior, and Executive Function: a Systematic Review

  • Dean McDonnellEmail author
  • Evan Hunt
  • Laura Griffin
  • Ryoko Sasamoto


Research and discussions over the relationship between executive function, multimedia viewing, and sedentary human behavior are becoming increasingly popular throughout academia and mainstream media. While some studies report screen-viewing behavior as being associated with reduced levels of physical activity, other studies have also reported associations with higher levels of cognitive activity. The aim of this paper is to establish the relationship between multimedia viewing, sedentary behavior, and executive function. In achieving this aim, the main objectives are to (1) identify a framework to specify core characteristics of visual stimuli that may influence behavior and (2) identify the ways executive functions may mediate the interpretation of visual media. Literature searches were conducted in the Cochrane Library, PsychInfo and PsychArticles, PubMed, Science Direct, Scopus, and Web of Science. Methods of assessment reported in the literature were predominantly reliant on experimenter observation and participant self-report, without psychometric, empirical, or objective measurement of the core variables under study. Despite a sizable proportion of research conducting large-scale experiments and/or secondary analysis of data from longitudinal databases, there were no indications of the characteristics or styles of visual stimuli used. The myriad of published works range in methodological design, resource, and stimuli use or sample population. Raising a question of comparability and replicability, recommendations are made for researchers in reporting multimedia stimuli and importance in addressing the role of cognitive engagement and social interaction within the methodological design and reporting.


Cognition Executive function Multimedia Sedentary behavior Screen viewing 



The authors would like to express thanks to the Centre for Translation and Textual Studies of Dublin City University for their support in carrying out this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Considerations

While this paper involved no recruitment of participants, ethical approval was granted by Dublin City University.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Technology and PsychologyInstitute of Art, Design, and TechnologyDublinIreland
  2. 2.School of PsychologyNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  3. 3.School of Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies, Centre for Translation and Textual StudiesDublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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