Cocktail Party Effect and Jr. High Students Part 4

Media Priority

When they are a young person’s primary activity, TV and videogames are the least multitasked media, while reading and computer activities such as IM, computer games and looking at websites are the most multitasked. Specifically, nearly two-thirds of the time young people spend reading, playing computer games or looking at websites, they are also doing something else at the same time (63% when playing computer games or looking at websites, 64% when IMing). But the same is true less than half the time they are watching TV (45%) or playing videogames (45%). Young people are more likely to focus their attention exclusively on TV than on reading: 55% of the time that they are watching TV as their primary activity they are doing nothing else, compared to only 38% of the time they are reading as their primary activity. (Foehr, 2006b)

81% of pre-teen and teenagers spend part of their media time multitasking, in an average week, but 19% of young people don’t media multitask at all over the course of a typical week. Factors that added to the possibility for young people to multitask were those who have a computer and can see a television from it, sensation seekers, those who are exposed to a highly TV-oriented household, and girls (more than boys) are all more likely to media multitask. (Foehr, 2006b)

Conclusions and Multi-Tasking Problems

Looking at the jr. high student and teenager multi-tasking seems to be evident in the majority of their everyday life with no outlook of change. The question then becomes what are they missing out on. Exposure to chat rooms, IM, email, Facebook and Twitter causes a breakdown in the traditional oral tradition of human nature. Media is causing the inability for true involvement in each others lives without a screen coming in between two individuals.

Cherry concluded that our ability to separate sounds from background noise is based on the characteristics of the sounds, such as the gender of the speaker, the direction from which the sound is coming, the pitch or the speaking speed. The cocktail party effect was based on audible sounds whereas today jr. high students focus in on multiple tasks in downtimes during IM, or by focusing in on perceptual grouping (when two channels are semantically consistent, for example audio and video on a t.v. screen allow viewers to process, attend and recall information easily. Perceptual grouping is just another form of transition probabilities (different pitch, voice, or tone) that Cherry proposed as a filter for the cocktail party effect.

Just like Cherry, Broadbent proposed his filter theory that directly explains multi-tasking. Jr. high students are provided with various stimuli and they filter what media is important at that moment and once they finish they can move on to the next stimuli that was stored in their memory, so they can attend to it at a latter time (i.e. finishing a text message and then going to do a homework question, while singing a song on the radio, and then replying to the pop up IM message on their computer screen.

The problem them becomes how to reach this age group if they are constantly switching their attention from media source to media source. If media multitasking becomes the norm for young people, advertisers and pro-social marketers have numerous problems coming at them. h When their media attention is divided, how can they be reached? The jr. high age bracket is in danger of becoming so media charged that they will find it difficult to pick up any positive message that is thrown their direction. The main danger is that they may not be able to be reached by any medium.


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