Negativity Bias in Media Multitasking: The Effects of Negative Social Media Messages on Attention to Television News Broadcasts

PLoS One. 2016 May 4;11(5):e0153712. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153712. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Television viewers' attention is increasingly more often divided between television and "second screens", for example when viewing television broadcasts and following their related social media discussion on a tablet computer. The attentional costs of such multitasking may vary depending on the ebb and flow of the social media channel, such as its emotional contents. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that negative social media messages would draw more attention than similar positive messages. Specifically, news broadcasts were presented in isolation and with simultaneous positive or negative Twitter messages on a tablet to 38 participants in a controlled experiment. Recognition memory, gaze tracking, cardiac responses, and self-reports were used as attentional indices. The presence of any tweets on the tablet decreased attention to the news broadcasts. As expected, negative tweets drew longer viewing times and elicited more attention to themselves than positive tweets. Negative tweets did not, however, decrease attention to the news broadcasts. Taken together, the present results demonstrate a negativity bias exists for social media messages in media multitasking; however, this effect does not amplify the overall detrimental effects of media multitasking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Bias
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media
  • Social Media*
  • Television

Grants and funding

This study received financial support from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (TEKES) as part of the NextMedia research programme (http://www.nextmedia.fi), initiated by Digile Ltd. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.