Media multitasking as an avoidance coping strategy against emotionally negative stimuli

Myoungju Shin, Eva Kemps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Objectives: Emotion regulation refers to the way individuals manage and regulate their own emotions in response to negative emotional experiences. This study investigated whether media multitasking serves as an avoidance coping strategy for managing emotionally stressful events. 

Design and Methods: Using a correlational design, 140 participants completed self-report measures of media multitasking and emotion regulation, and cognitive measures assessing attentional bias for emotionally negative stimuli. 

Results: Media multitasking was associated with difficulties in accepting emotional responses for participants who showed an attentional bias away from anxiety words, and for participants with poorer inhibitory control over such words. Further, there was a strong association between media multitasking and reduced interference from anxiety words for participants with stronger inhibitory control over such words in the emotional Stroop task. 

Conclusions: Results support the idea that media multitasking is linked to difficulty dealing with emotionally negative stimuli and serves as an avoidance coping strategy where one deliberately directs attention away from negative stimuli to prevent their further processing. The findings have real-life implications for managing anxiety and depression, as media multitasking may be used as a maladaptive coping strategy that further increases these negative moods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-451
Number of pages12
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Mar 2020


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