A Behavioral Economic Analysis of Media Multitasking Public

Delay Discounting as an Underlying Process of Texting in the Classroom

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 that involved a hypothetical scenario in which, after receiving a text message in the classroom, they rated their likelihood of replying to a text message immediately versus waiting until the class is over to reply. The scenario presented several delays (ranged from 1 min 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 monetary rewards 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. Finally, 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. A behavioral economic approach may be a useful research tool for investigating the decision-making process underlying texting in the classroom, and possibly other forms of media multitasking.


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