A behavioral economic analysis of media multitasking: Delay discounting as an underlying process of texting in the classroom

Yusuke Hayashi, Glenn P. Blessington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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The purpose of the present study was to investigate the decision making process underlying texting in the classroom from a behavioral economic perspective. A sample of 136 undergraduate students completed a novel delay-discounting task involving a hypothetical scenario in which, after receiving a text message, they rated their likelihood of replying to the text message immediately versus waiting until the class is over to reply. The scenario presented several delays (ranged from 1 to 75 min) under two cell-phone-policy conditions (with and without a policy that banned in-class cell phone use). Participants also completed a behavioral assessment of impulsivity with a delay-discounting task involving hypothetical money and a self-reported assessment of the dispositional trait of impulsivity. The results show that the decrease in the likelihood of waiting to reply as a function of the delay was well described by a hyperboloid delay-discounting function. The rates of discounting were greater for students who self-reported higher frequencies of texting in the classroom as well as under the condition without the cell phone policy. Students who self-reported higher frequencies of texting in the classroom were more impulsive in both behavioral and self-reported measures of impulsivity. These results support the conclusion that the decision making underlying texting in the classroom can be well characterized using the delay-discounting paradigm and that texting in the classroom is fundamentally an impulsive choice, and that a behavioral economic approach is useful for investigating the decision-making process underlying texting in the classroom, and potentially other forms of media multitasking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-255
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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

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