Psychology student publishes research conducted using Zoom during COVID-19 Lockdown
- Friday, March 25th, 2022
Psychology major Rachel Bragg began working on her study of multitasking in 2019. She was interested in how the format of the tasks people engaged in influenced the negative effects of multitasking. Rachel wanted to know if it was worse to do two visual tasks at the same time than to do one visual and one auditory task. She also wanted to know what people thought about these types of tasks—in other words, would they perceive both kinds of multitasking as equally difficult?
In early 2020, Rachel finished designing and programming her multitasking study, which was to take place in the Attention & Memory Lab in Gary Ransdell Hall. However, soon after the study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), COVID-19 shut down the university, so running a face-to-face study was not possible. Rachel had to decide whether to give up on the study, or find another way to test the hypotheses she had planned to test using an iPad and a computer. Rachel knew she couldn’t expect all participants to have access to both of those items in their homes.
After many strategizing sessions, Rachel and her research mentor, Dr. Jenni Redifer, realized that Zoom videoconferencing software might work. Participants could do one task on a computer, and the other task on their phones. After receiving approval from the IRB to modify the study design, Rachel and the rest of the Attention & Memory Lab research team collected data by meeting with participants over Zoom. Participants completed a list-learning task (visual stimulus) on their phones while responding to either a red dot (visual stimulus) or tone (auditory stimulus) on their computers. Attention & Memory Lab researchers stayed on Zoom with participants the entire time, making sure they understood the task and followed instructions.
Rachel found that, although participants performed worse when they had two visual tasks than with one visual and one auditory task, participants thought both types of multi-tasking were equally difficult. This research has important implications for the study of multitasking behavior—and the modified format Rachel ended up using due to COVID-19 may have actually been more like the kind of multi-tasking people do in the real world, such as looking at their phones while watching TV.
Rachel’s research is now published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology.
Contact: Dr. Jenni Redifer firstname.lastname@example.org