Individual Differences in Memory Disruption Caused by Simulated Cellphone Notifications (2022)

Published: 24 May 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/n7pwzncxzj.1
Constance Schmidt, Stephen Schmidt,


This dataset includes stimulus materials and data for a pilot study and two experiments exploring the effects of cellphone notifications on recall of categorized word lists. Participants studied word lists under three levels of distraction: no notifications, instructions to dismiss the notifications without reading them, and instructions to read the notifications before dismissing them. Words were presented simultaneously in the pilot research and Experiment 1, and successively in Experiment 2. Four measures of word memory were obtained: total words recalled, number of categories recalled, words-per-category recalled, and a ratio-of-repetitions of category clustering. After studying and recalling the word lists, participants completed questionnaires assessing their video-gaming, musical, texting, and media-multitasking experiences. In the two experiments, participants also completed the Ward et al. (2017) cellphone attachment and dependence scales. In the second experiment, participants completed a forward-digit span task as a measure of their working memory capacity. The data were analyzed using linear mixed modeling with distraction level as a between-participants, fixed categorical variable. Base models including only the distraction level factor were constructed for each word-memory measure. Individual-difference covariates based on questionnaire responses were added separately to the base models. Word memory decreased as the level of distraction from the notifications increased. Dismissing the notifications without reading them primarily interfered with relational processing (category recall), whereas reading the notifications disrupted both relational (category recall) and individual-item processing (words-per-category recall). The disruptive effects of notifications were strongest when words were presented successively in the second experiment. Heavy texting was associated with poor word memory, whereas Ward dependence, Ward attachment, and digit span were associated with good word memory. Participants low in texting and video-gaming were not as disrupted by incoming notifications as their higher-experience peers. However, the effects of distraction were significant even after individual differences in multimedia experience were taken into account. The results of this research suggest that no-one is immune to the dual costs of monitoring incoming notifications while performing academic and professional tasks.



Middle Tennessee State University


Mobile Device, Multitasking, Individual Differences, Episodic Memory