Research has consistently shown negative effects of multitasking on tasks such as problem solving. This study was designed to investigate the impact of an incentive when solving problems in a multitasking situation. Incentives have generally been shown to increase problem solving (e.g., Wieth and Burns, 2006), however, it is unclear whether an incentive can increase problem solving while attentional resources are divided. Participants were either given an incentive or not and asked to complete incremental and insight problems while either in a dual-task or single task condition. After solving the problems participants were given a surprise memory test. Results showed that the incentive only led to increases in problem solving in the single task condition but not the dual-task condition. Furthermore, results showed that an incentive in the dual-task condition led to an increase in recall of irrelevant information. These findings indicate that an incentive cannot ameliorate the detrimental effects of multitasking when problem solving and may even lead to an increase in irrelevant information processing.
Wieth, Mareike B. and Burns, Bruce D.
"Rewarding Multitasking: Negative Effects of an Incentive on Problem Solving under Divided Attention,"
The Journal of Problem Solving:
1, Article 7.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jps/vol7/iss1/7