Silasi-Mansat, Crina (2015-12). Studying While Multitasking: Effects of Cognitive Style and Working Memory Capacity. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The current project asked in two studies whether individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) and cognitive style influence learning under multitasking conditions. In both studies, a median split on the Word-relation task and OSPAN test divided participants into categorical-relational thinkers and into high - low WMC groups, respectively. A reading comprehension task was utilized to assess learning in both studies. In study 1, the multitasking condition was created by asking all participants to perform in a visual monitoring task while reading a passage in the reading comprehension task. In Study 2, half of the participants performed in in the visual monitoring task, while the other half listened to music while reading a passage in the reading comprehension task. Thus, Study 2 was designed as a replication and extension of Study 1. It was predicted that in both studies, relational thinkers with low WMC will show the most decrease in the reading comprehension performance under multitasking conditions due to the lack of sufficient cognitive resources needed to perform well in the task. In study 1, results from a mixed factorial ANOVA showed a significant WMC x cognitive style interaction within the multitasking, but not the single task condition. As predicted, low WMC relational thinkers showed the highest decrease in the reading comprehension performance in the multitasking condition compared to any other group. Results replicated in Study 2 within each multitasking context. These results suggest that the relational cognitive style is more cognitively demanding and requires more working memory resources than categorical cognitive style. At a broader level, they emphasize the need to consider both personal and environmental factors for a better understanding of multitasking behavior. Future directions and implications of the studies are also discussed.

publication date

  • December 2015