It has become common practice for people to multitask with electronic devices in everyday situations. We examined the effects of interrupting participants with instant messages while they watched a video presentation in a situation that resembled commonplace events such as a business meeting, a training presentation, or a classroom lecture. We compared them to participants who were not interrupted. We also investigated how interest in the topics presented affected learning. Results showed that interruptions reduced learning, by a small but statistically significant margin, which is consistent with the findings of similar studies. Importantly, interest level was as strong a predictor of learning as being interrupted, although interest did not moderate the effect of interruptions. Results showed that interruptions are disruptive but perhaps not as much as is commonly believed. The results also highlight the importance of studying individual difference factors, such as interest levels, in conjunction with experimental manipulations, when assessing the effects of multitasking.
Conard, M. A., & Marsh, R. F. (2014). Interest level improves learning but does not moderate the effects of interruptions: An experiment using simultaneous multitasking. Learning and Individual Differences, 30, 112-117.