Multitasking refers to the simultaneous execution of two or more tasks. Perceived multitasking superiority of the digital natives and gifted students in the popular education literature need to be investigated with robust studies. In this regard, the effect of different multitasking scenarios on multimedia learning was investigated with 93 gifted and 121 non-gifted middle school students. The respondents were assigned randomly to three different scenarios: Monotasking (i.e. watching an instructional video without interruption), concurrent multitasking (i.e. texting during an instructional video) and sequential multitasking (i.e. watching instructional and distractive videos successively). In addition to content learning, the students’ scores on topic interest, daily multitasking habits, subjective cognitive load and working memory capacity were considered. Working memory capacity correlated positively with learning outcomes. After it was included as a covariate, the results of a two-way between-groups ANCOVA revealed that multitasking conditions interfered with learning. Gifted students were consistently more successful than non-gifted students, but suffered during concurrent multitasking. Therefore, organizing instructional interventions according to an empirically questionable multitasking superiority seems problematic.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ackerman, P. L., Beier, M. E., & Boyle, M. D. (2002). Individual differences in working memory within a nomological network of cognitive and perceptual speed abilities. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,131(4), 567–589.
Ackerman, P. L., Beier, M. E., & Boyle, M. O. (2005). Working memory and intelligence: The same or different constructs? Psychological Bulletin,131(1), 30.
Adler, R. F., & Benbunan-Fich, R. (2013). Self-interruptions in discretionary multitasking. Computers in Human Behavior,29(4), 1441–1449.
Alfonso, V. C., Flanagan, D. P., & Radwan, S. (2005). The impact of the Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory on test development and interpretation of cognitive and academic abilities. In D. P. Flanagan & P. L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (2nd ed., pp. 185–202). New York: Guilford Publications.
Alloway, T. P., & Alloway, R. G. (2010). Investigating the predictive roles of working memory and IQ in academic attainment. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,106(1), 20–29.
Altman, E. M., & Trafton, J. G. (2002). Memory for goals: An activation based model. Cognitive Science,26, 39–83.
Anderson, J. R. (2007). How can the human mind occur in the physical universe? (Vol. 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Anderson, S. (2009). In defense of distraction. New York Magazine,42(18), 28–101.
Ayas, M. B., & Sak, U. (2014). Objective measure of scientific creativity: Psychometric validity of the creative scientific ability test. Thinking Skills and Creativity,13, 195–205.
Bai, H., Jones, W. E., Moss, J., & Doane, S. M. (2014). Relating individual differences in cognitive ability and strategy consistency to interruption recovery during multitasking. Learning and Individual Differences,35, 22–33.
Barrouillet, P., Bernardin, S., Portrat, S., Vergauwe, E., & Camos, V. (2007). Time and cognitive load in working memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,33, 570–585.
Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M., & Gendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers & Education,54, 927–931.
Bühner, M., Konig, C. J., Pick, M., & Krumm, S. (2006). Working memory dimensions as differential predictors of the speed and error aspect of multitasking performance. Human Performance,19(3), 253–275.
Calero, M. D., García-Martín, M. B., Jiménez, M. I., Kazén, M., & Araque, A. (2007). Self-regulation advantage for high-IQ children: Findings from a research study. Learning and Individual Differences,17(4), 328–343.
Colom, R., Abad, F. J., Rebollo, I., & Shih, P. C. (2005). Memory span and general intelligence: A latent-variable approach. Intelligence,33(6), 623–642.
Colom, R., Martínez-Molina, A., Shih, P. C., & Santacreu, J. (2010). Intelligence, working memory, and multitasking performance. Intelligence,38(6), 543–551.
Covre, P., Baddeley, A. D., Hitch, G. J., & Bueno, O. F. A. (2019). Maintaining task set against distraction: The role of working memory in multitasking. Psychology & Neuroscience,12(1), 38–52.
Dindar, M., & Akbulut, Y. (2016). Effects of multitasking on retention and topic interest. Learning and Instruction,41, 94–105.
Eriksson, G. (2010). Authentic and virtual global connections: The transformation of gifted education. Gifted Education International,27(1), 19–28.
Fard, E. K., Keelor, J. L., Bagheban, A. A., & Keith, R. W. (2016). Comparison of the rey auditory verbal learning test (RAVLT) and digit test among typically achieving and gifted students. Iranian Journal of Child Neurology,10(2), 26–37.
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A. G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G*Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods,39(2), 175–191.
Fischer, R., & Plessow, F. (2015). Efficient multitasking: Parallel versus serial processing of multiple tasks. Frontiers in Psychology,6, 1366.
Flanagan, D. P., & Dixon, S. G. (2013). The Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory of cognitive abilities. In C. R. Reynolds, K. J. Vannest, & E. Fletcher-Janzen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of special education (pp. 368–382). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Foehr, U. G. (2006). Media multitasking among American youth: Prevalence, pairings and predictors. Cambridge: Stanford University. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.
Fry, A. F., & Hale, S. (2000). Relationships among processing speed, working memory, and fluid intelligence in children. Biological Psychology,54(1–3), 1–34.
George, D., & Mallery, M. (2010). Using SPSS for Windows step by step: A simple guide and reference. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Glass, A. L., & Kang, M. (2019). Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance. Educational Psychology,39(3), 395–408.
Graboyes, A. S. (2007). No gifted student left behind: Building a high school library media center for the gifted student. Gifted Child Today,30(2), 42–51.
Grobman, J. (2009). A psychodynamic psychotherapy approach to the emotional problems of exceptionally and profoundly gifted adolescents and adults: A psychiatrist’s experience. Journal for the Education of the Gifted,33, 106–125.
Guignard, J. H., Kermarrec, S., & Tordjman, S. (2016). Relationships between intelligence and creativity in gifted and non-gifted children. Learning and Individual Differences,52, 209–215.
Hambrick, D. Z., Oswald, F. L., Darowski, E. S., Rench, T. A., & Brou, R. (2010). Predictors of multitasking performance in a synthetic work paradigm. Applied Cognitive Psychology,24(8), 1149–1167.
Heflin, H., Shewmaker, J., & Nguyen, J. (2017). Impact of mobile technology on student attitudes, engagement, and learning. Computers & Education,107, 91–99.
Heyder, A., Bergold, S., & Steinmayr, R. (2018). Teachers’ knowledge about intellectual giftedness: A first look at levels and correlates. Psychology Learning & Teaching,17(1), 27–44.
Heylighen, F. (2007). Characteristics and problems of the gifted: neural propagation depth and flow motivation as a model of intelligence and creativity. Brussels: ECCO. Retrieved March 3, 2018 from http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/papers/giftednessmodel.pdf.
Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist,41(2), 111–127.
Huck, S. W. (2012). Reading statistics and research (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.
Jaušovec, N. (2000). Differences in cognitive processes between gifted, intelligent, creative, and average individuals while solving complex problems: An EEG study. Intelligence,28(3), 213–237.
Judd, T., & Kennedy, G. (2011). Measurement and evidence of computer-based task switching and multitasking by ‘Net Generation’ students. Computers & Education,56(3), 625–631.
Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development,10(3), 2–10.
Kılıç, E., & Karadeniz, S. (2004). Hiper ortamlarda öğrencilerin bilişsel yüklenme ve kaybolma düzeylerinin belirlenmesi [Specifying students’ cognitive load and disorientation level in hypermedia]. Kuram ve Uygulamada Eğitim Yönetimi,40, 562–579.
Kinsbourne, M. (1981). Single channel theory. In D. H. Holding (Ed.), Human skills (pp. 65–89). Chichester: Wiley.
Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education,67, 135–142.
Kirschner, P. A., & van Merriënboer, J. G. (2013). Do learners really know best? Urban legends in education. Educational Psychologist,48(3), 169–183.
Klepsch, M., Schmitz, F., & Seufert, T. (2017). Development and validation of two instruments measuring intrinsic, extraneous, and germane cognitive load. Frontiers in Psychology,8(1997), 1–18.
Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Konig, C. J., Buhner, M., & Murling, G. (2005). Working memory, fluid intelligence, and attention are predictors of multitasking performance, but polychronicity and extraversion are not. Human Performance,18(3), 243–266.
Krapp, A. (2000). Interest and human development during adolescence: An educational-psychological approach. In J. Heckhausen (Ed.), Motivational psychology of human development (pp. 109–128). London: Elsevier.
Kraushar, J. M., & Novak, D. C. (2010). Examining the affects of student multitasking with laptops during the lecture. Journal of Information Systems Education,21(2), 241–251.
Kucuk, S., Aydemir, M., Yildirim, G., Arpacik, O., & Goktas, Y. (2013). Educational technology research trends in Turkey from 1990 to 2011. Computers & Education,68, 42–50.
Leppink, J., Paas, F., Van der Vleuten, C. P., Van Gog, T., & Van Merriënboer, J. J. (2013). Development of an instrument for measuring different types of cognitive load. Behavior Research Methods,45(4), 1058–1072.
Li, D., Liu, T., Zhang, X., Wang, M., Wang, D., & Shi, J. (2017). Fluid intelligence, emotional intelligence, and the Iowa Gambling Task in children. Intelligence,62, 167–174.
Lin, L., Mills, L. A., & Ifenthaler, D. (2016). Collaboration, multi-tasking and problem solving performance in shared virtual spaces. Journal of Computing in Higher Education,28(3), 344–357.
Lin, L., Robertson, T., & Lee, J. (2009). Reading performances between novices and experts in different media multitasking environments. Computers in the Schools,26(3), 169–186.
Makel, M. C., Snyder, K. E., Thomas, C., Malone, P. S., & Putallaz, M. (2015). Gifted students’ implicit beliefs about intelligence and giftedness. Gifted Child Quarterly,59(4), 203–212.
Makransky, G., Terkildsen, T. S., & Mayer, R. E. (2019). Role of subjective and objective measures of cognitive processing during learning in explaining the spatial contiguity effect. Learning and Instruction,61, 23–34.
Medeiros-Ward, N., Watson, J. M., & Strayer, D. L. (2015). On supertaskers and the neural basis of efficient multitasking. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,22(3), 876–883.
Meyer, D. E., & Kieras, D. E. (1997). A computational theory of executive cognitive processes and multiple-task performance: I. Basic mechanisms. Psychological Review,104, 3–65.
Miller, J., Ulrich, R., & Rolke, B. (2009). On the optimality of serial and parallel processing in the psychological refractory period paradigm: Effects of the distribution of stimulus onset asynchronies. Cognitive Psychology,58(3), 273–310.
Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Rettinger, D. A., Shah, P., & Hegarty, M. (2001). How are visuospatial working memory, executive functioning, and spatial abilities related? A latent-variable analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,130(4), 621–640.
Monsell, S. (2003). Task switching. Trends in Cognitive Sciences,7, 134–140.
Opengin, E., & Tasdemir, İ. (2016). Teachers’ views with regard to gifted students’ education and resource room program. In Excellence & innovation in basic-higher education & psychology, (pp. 82–83).
Ophir, E., Nass, C., & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,106(37), 15583–15587.
Örün, Ö., & Akbulut, Y. (2019). Effect of multitasking, physical environment and electroencephalography use on cognitive load and retention. Computers in Human Behavior,92, 216–229.
Paas, F. G., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (1993). The efficiency of instructional conditions: An approach to combine mental effort and performance measures. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society,35(4), 737–743.
Pallant, J. (2011). SPSS survival manual: A step by step guide to data analysis using SPSS (4th ed.). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Parry, D. A., & le Roux, D. B. (2018). Media multitasking and cognitive control: A systematic review of interventions. Computers in Human Behavior,92, 316–327.
Pashler, H. (1998). The psychology of attention. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Pashler, H., Kang, S. H., & Ip, R. Y. (2013). Does multitasking impair studying? Depends on timing. Applied Cognitive Psychology,27(5), 593–599.
Paz-Baruch, N., Leikin, L., & Leikin, M. (2016). Visual processing in generally gifted and mathematically excelling adolescents. Journal for the Education of the Gifted,39(3), 237–258.
Portrat, S., Barrouillet, P., & Camos, V. (2008). Time-related decay or interference-based forgetting in working memory? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,34(6), 1561–1564.
Ragan, E. D., Jennings, S. R., Massey, J. D., & Doolittle, P. E. (2014). Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes. Computers & Education,78, 78–86.
Redick, T. S., Broadway, J. M., Meier, M. E., Kuriakose, P. S., Unsworth, N., Kane, M. J., et al. (2012). Measuring working memory capacity with automated complex span tasks. European Journal of Psychological Assessment,28(3), 164–171.
Rosen, C. (2008). The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis,20, 105–110.
Rosen, L. D., Lim, A. F., Carrier, L. M., & Cheever, N. A. (2011). An empirical examination of the educational impact of text message-induced task switching in the classroom: Educational implications and strategies to enhance learning. Psicología Educativa,17(2), 163–177.
Ross, S. M., Morrison, G. R., & Lowther, D. L. (2010). Educational technology research past and present: Balancing rigor and relevance to impact school learning. Contemporary Educational Technology,1(1), 17–35.
Saccuzzo, D. P., Johnson, N. E., & Guertin, T. L. (1994). Information processing in gifted versus nongifted African American, Latino, Filipino, and White children: Speeded versus nonspeeded paradigms. Intelligence,19(2), 219–243.
Sak, U. (2008). Test of the three-mathematical minds (M3) for the identification of mathematically gifted students. Roeper Review,31(1), 53–67.
Salvucci, D. D. (2005). A multitasking general executive for compound continuous tasks. Cognitive Science,29(3), 457–492.
Salvucci, D. D., & Taatgen, N. A. (2008). Threaded cognition: An integrated theory of concurrent multitasking. Psychological Review,115(1), 101–130.
Salvucci, D. D., Taatgen, N. A., & Borst, J. P. (2009, April). Toward a unified theory of the multitasking continuum: From concurrent performance to task switching, interruption, and resumption. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems, (pp. 1819–1828). ACM.
Schaffner, E., & Schiefele, U. (2007). The effect of experimental manipulation of student motivation on the situational representation of text. Learning and Instruction,17(6), 755–772.
Schellen, M., Lin, L., & Bigenho, C. (2017). Effect of texting with friends during video lectures on high school students’ learning. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange (JETDE),10(1), 1–9.
Skaugset, L. M., Farrell, S., Carney, M., Wolff, M., Santen, S. A., Perry, M., et al. (2016). Can you multitask? Evidence and limitations of task switching and multitasking in emergency medicine. Annals of Emergency Medicine,68(2), 189–195.
Small, G. W., & Vorgan, G. (2008). iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind. New York: Collins Living.
Srivastava, J. (2013). Media multitasking performance: Role of message relevance and formatting cues in online environments. Computers in Human Behavior,29(3), 888–895.
Stephens, K. K., & Davis, J. (2009). The social influences on electronic multitasking in organizational meetings. Management Communication Quarterly,23(1), 63–83.
Stoneman, P. (2007) The sociology and efficacy of multitasking. Chimera Working Paper 2007-05. Ipswich: University of Essex.
Thompson, L. A., & Oehlert, J. L. (2010). The etiology of giftedness. Learning and Individual Differences,20(4), 298–307.
Tran, P., Carrillo, R., & Subrahmanyam, K. (2013). Effects of online multitasking on reading comprehension of expository text. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2013-3-2.
Uncapher, M. R., Lin, L., Rosen, L. D., Kirkorian, H. L., Baron, N. S., Bailey, K., … Wagner, A. D. (2017). Media multitasking and cognitive, psychological, neural, and learning differences. Pediatrics, 140(Suppl 2), S62–S66.
Uncapher, M. R., & Wagner, A. D. (2018). Minds and brains of media multitaskers: Current findings and future directions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,115(40), 9889–9896.
Veen, W., & Vrakking, B. (2006). Homo zappiens: Growing up in a digital age. London: Network Continuum Education.
Waite, B. M., Lindberg, R., Ernst, B., Bowman, L. L., & Levine, L. E. (2018). Off-task multitasking, note-taking and lower-and higher-order classroom learning. Computers & Education,120, 98–111.
Watson, J. M., & Strayer, D. L. (2010). Supertaskers: Profiles in extraordinary multitasking ability. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,17(4), 479–485.
Zhong, B. (2013). From smartphones to iPad: Power users’ disposition toward mobile media devices. Computers in Human Behavior,29(4), 1742–1748.
This study is the summary of the first author’s Ph.D. dissertation, which was supervised by the second author. The research team thanks the Editor and six anonymous reviewers for their outstanding feedback on the previous versions of the manuscript.
This study was funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK, Grant Number: 117K133).
Conflict of interest
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The research proposal was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Anadolu University (June 28, 2016).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Mercimek, B., Akbulut, Y., Dönmez, O. et al. Multitasking impairs learning from multimedia across gifted and non-gifted students. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 995–1016 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09717-9
- Working memory
- Secondary school
- Multimedia learning