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A Theory of Media Multitasking Intensity


Abstract. This article first situates media multitasking in the changing media ecology. Then, grounded in concepts of stress and flow, limited capacity, and threaded cognition, it develops a four-dimensional theory of media multitasking intensity. Based on the key aspects of media multitasking intensity, the subsequent section proposes two primary influences (executive functioning and self-regulation) and one primary outcome (general stress). An application example focuses on several media multitasking issues and the stress outcome for adolescents within their family environment. The final section suggests a few key methodological implications for studying the theory of media multitasking intensity (self-report, and both temporal and social contexts). The theory of media multitasking intensity generates insights about the functional (i.e., valuable) variation within experiences of media as they overlap with and interrupt experiences of the physical and mediated world.

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