Marketing Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Multitasking is pervasive. With technological advancements, the desire, ability, and often necessity to engage in multiple activities concurrently are paramount. Although multitasking refers to the simultaneous execution of multiple tasks, most activities that require active attention cannot actually be done simultaneously. Therefore, whether a certain activity is considered multitasking is often a matter of subjective perception. The current paper demonstrates the malleability of what people perceive as multitasking, showing that the same activity may or may not be construed as multitasking. Importantly, although engaging in multiple tasks may diminish performance, we find that, holding the activity constant, the mere perception of multitasking actually improves performance. Across 23 incentive-compatible studies, totaling 6,768 participants, we find that those who perceived an activity as multitasking were more engaged, and consequently outperformed those who perceived that same activity as single-tasking.


This is an unpublished manuscript.


multitasking, performance, perception, engagement, pupil dilation



Date Posted: 15 June 2018