The Link Between Media Multitasking and Snacking
It’s a Tuesday night, and you’re sitting down on the couch with your favorite snack minutes before your favorite show comes on. Halfway through the show, you realize you’ve been on your phone most of the time and your snack is almost gone. How does this always seem to happen?
According to a study by Michigan State University, this is not anything uncommon. The study states that “media multitasking” can heavily influence snacking. Media multitasking is the act of switching between various screens—all with different content. When we do this, we experience “cognitive overload,” says Michigan State Assistant Professor Anastasia Kononova.
The study divided 140 participants into four different groups, each group in a different scenario. All groups were provided with an assortment of healthy and unhealthy snacks. The scenarios were:
- Watching TV
- Watching TV and texting
- Watching TV, texting, and reading an article and taking a quiz on the information
- Watching TV, texting and shopping online
The group in the least pleasant scenario, with the article and the quiz, were 32 percent more likely to eat more unhealthy snacks than healthy snacks. The group that watched TV, texted and shopped online were 26 percent more likely to choose the healthy snacks. Kononova explains these results with a phenomenon many of us know too well, stress eating.
It makes sense. An unpleasant or stressful scenario can drive us to “pleasant” foods. The brain feels like it should compensate these stressful feelings with comfort and happiness.
“At the same time, not every form of multitasking seems to be harmful to one’s diet. If you enjoy using multiple screens together, it might help your food choices,” says Kononova. If you’re a parent, educator or professional leader, keep this in mind. Do you notice employees thriving or stressing when media multitasking?