Multitasking as multisensory behavior: Revisiting media multitasking in the perspective of media ecology theory

Tao Sun, Bu Zhong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Media multitasking has become an inseparable part of the media routine for many Internet users as it is being retribalized, as a multisensory computer-mediated behavior, in the mobile media age. Guided by McLuhan's media ecology theory, this study examined the hierarchical relationships between media multitasking and media generations, mobile media use, and need for cognition among users in the United States and China (N = 1,340). After gender was controlled, media generations (defined as those growing up with or without the pervasive use of mobile media) was directly associated with media multitasking. Moreover, mobile media power use mediated the relationship between media generations and media multitasking. The personality construct of need for cognition was also found to play a critical role in performing multitasking. These findings indicate that mobile media technologies are reactivating multiple human senses in multitaskers, which might be a result of the evolutionary process spearheaded by the ubiquity of mobile media technologies. Thus, it is high time to revisit media multitasking as a new normal and access it as a multisensory behavior. McLuhan's media ecology theory helps understand the evolution of media multitasking, which may no longer be as simple as a technology distraction to users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106151
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Media ecology theory
  • Media generation
  • Media multitasking
  • Need for cognition
  • Power user


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