Using multiple screen devices simultaneously while snacking may influence food choices, according to a new Michigan State University study.
Specifically, when people engage in media multitasking that makes them feel good, they're more prone to eat healthy, says Anastasia Kononova, assistant professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, who led the study.
One such example: shopping online while watching television and texting.
"Media multitasking can affect rationalization process," Kononova says. "Our main finding was that people like some media multitasking situations and hate others. And, when using multiple screens makes people feel stressed or overwhelmed, they eat worse."
It could be that unpleasant media multitasking increases cognitive load, so it's harder for people to have control over snack selection and rationalize with themselves about healthy eating, Kononova says. It could also be "stress eating," during which people experience unpleasant feelings and turn to more pleasant foods.
"The findings of this study could be useful for parents, educators and other caregivers who might want to discourage media multitasking among young people in their care," she says. "At the same time, not every form of multitasking seems to be harmful for one's diet. If you enjoy using multiple screens together, it might actually help your food choices."
The study is especially relevant since most young people use multiple screens at a time (TV, phone and laptop), Kononova says.
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