Media multitasking, negative mood, and avoidance coping

Jay Shin, Callum Downes, Jessica Hopwood, Melissa Byers, Eva Kemps

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Media multitasking is a prevalent phenomenon especially among adolescents and young adults. This study explored the possibility that media multitasking is used as an avoidance coping strategy against stress. If so, media multitasking behaviour could be monitored to detect symptoms of anxiety and depression. Across three experiments, participants completed measures of media multitasking, anxiety, depression, and cognitive behavioural avoidance. In each of the three experiments, participants also completed an attentional bias task (a dot probe task using emotionally negative and neutral stimuli). Media multitasking was associated with negative emotions, such as (social/trait) anxiety, depression, and cognitive behavioural avoidance. However, attentional avoidance was not linked to media multitasking, negative mood, or behavioural avoidance. Taken together, the results provide preliminary evidence that media multitasking is associated with negative emotions and behavioural avoidance, but not with an attentional avoidance of emotionally negative stimuli. The finding suggests that media multitasking behaviour may be used to help detect anxiety and depression, and treating these mental health disorders could include exploring the relationships between media multitasking, negative emotions, and avoidance coping.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehaviour and Information Technology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 04 May 2024


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