The Downfall of Distraction & Multitasking

Does this look like a familiar classroom scene?

Researchers at York and McMasterUniversities found surprising information when it comes to laptop use in class and how it distracts not only you, but everyone else around you.

Multitasking is everywhere in our busy lives. We feel that without it we wouldn’t be able to get nearly as much accomplished, but many people fail to realize that it has negative consequences on task performance. When we are dividing our attention between two or more tasks, the incoming information we must process isn’t properly stored. (Sana, Weston and Cepeda, 2013) This applies to multitasking during lectures. If we are distracted by our own, and others’, computer screens it decreases our ability to store the information being presented to us.

The study Laptop Multitasking Hinders Class Learning for Both Uses and Nearby Peers (Sana, Weston & Cepeda, 2013) looked at whether multitasking on a laptop during class would negatively affect individual learning, and also if being in view of someone multitasking would have an effect.  The results showed that students had lower comprehension of course material when they spent time multitasking during class. What is surprising though, is that students with a direct view of others multitasking on laptops had their comprehension even more negatively affected than those actually multitasking. Although those students were trying to learn, viewing their peers’ multitasking behaviour put them at a disadvantage.

Knowing these results, is it up to Universities to have more strict policies regarding laptop use during class time, or is it up to students to take responsibility for their own learning?

If you would like to read the full study, it can be found at

Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. (2013) Laptop multitasking hinders class learning for both uses and nearby peers. Computers & Education. 62. 24-31. Retrieved from:


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