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It is commonplace today for school aged children to sit in front of the television when they start homework. Of course college students will simultaneously complete homework assignments or read a text book while ripping through channels on TV. Many of the students argue that having a distraction in the form of television and radio while completing homework does not interfere with the ability to complete homework effectively. In fact many students argue that having a TV in the background functions as a white noise which they have to actively block out in order concentrate. Today teachers and parents are the few remaining individuals who disagree with this theory and as such researchers have thought out the answer as to whether television does have an impact on homework one way or the other.
Previous studies have focused on the effects of watching or listening to television while doing homework (Cool, et al., 1994). These researchers provided their participants with a specific amount of time during which they were instructed to complete the assignment. Some of the participants were exposed to television as they worked and others were not. The research discovered that significantly fewer questions were completed within the given timeframe when a participant in question was exposed to television as compared to those participants who were exposed to relative silence. In addition to this they have determined that those who had watched television had showed worse results compared to those who were given silence first.
Another study by Pool, et al., (2003) had focused specifically on the impact a soap opera had on students, trying to complete their homework. In this study the participants were placed in three different conditions. First was a visual soap opera, the second was given the audio soundtrack to a soap opera and the third was no sound at all. All of the participants were provided with memorization assignments and the results from this study indicated that participants who were in the visual soap opera category required significantly more time to complete the same assignment compared to the other two groups. In addition to this half of the participants had to increase the amount of time it took for them to complete the work because they were continually working away from the assignment to the television.
A study similar to these two set out to determine if there was anything in a real life more exciting which was distracting to the ability to complete homework on time (Patton, 1983). These experimenters provided questionnaires to 387 students and asked them to fill out the questionnaire at home and return them to the experimenters. The capacity theory states that in case the brains are exposed to two different functions each of which requires attention, the attention will be divided between the two evenly and the general performance will diminish. In this case it refers to watching television and completing homework (Goldstein, 2005, p. 15).
Each of these studies have come to similar conclusions regarding the effect the television has on studying. In the previous studies the number of questions answered within a specific amount of time was also one of the main factors. This particular study is different in that it focuses on time as the a dependent variable and not the number of questions which are answered. The current study aims to share the impact that watching television has on the amount of time it takes students in college to complete a homework assignment. It is hypothesized that sitting in front of the television will increase the amount of time taken to complete a homework assignment.
The study found that watching television increases the amount of time it took to complete an assignment even if students only have the television on in the background. The results of the study remained consistent with all previous studies related to the effect that television has on completing assignments. This study had determined that many participants exposed to television would regularly look up at the screen which was the key factor behind the extended amount of time it took to complete the assignments. This finding is consistent with the work noted by Pool, et al. (2003) where participants regularly looked up at the television screen. By looking up at the screen the brain experienced the divided attention related to the capacity theory and as a result both of the tax diminished. The success for the mass of the tasks remains proportional to the amount of cognitive resources being utilized and in this case the amount of resources necessary for each individual task was more than the amount of cognitive resources available at any given time. Other studies have focused on how many questions were completed in a specific amount of time and this study was different in that students were encouraged to complete their tasks under time constraints.
Cool, V., Yarbrough, D. B., Patton, J. E., & Runde, R. Experimental effects of radio and television distractors on children’s performance on mathematics and reading assignments. Journal of Experimental Education, (1994) 62, 181-194.
Garner, Roberta, and Gregory M. Scott. Doing qualitative research: designs, methods, and techniques. Pearson Education, 2013.
Goldstein, E. B., Cognitive psychology, connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. (2005) Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth.
Patton, J. E., Stinard, T. A., & Routh, D. K. Where do children study? Journal of Educational Research, (1983). 76, 280-286.
Pool, M. M., Koolstra, C. M., & Van Der Voort, T. H. A. Distraction effects of background soap operas on homework performance: An experimental study enriched with observational data. Educational Psychology, (2003). 23, 361-380.
Wang, Zheng, et al. “Multidimensions of Media Multitasking and Adaptive Media Selection.” Human Communication Research 41.1 (2015): 102-127.
Wiecha, Jean L., et al. “Household television access: associations with screen time, reading, and homework among youth.” Ambulatory Pediatrics 1.5 (2001): 244-251.
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Xu, Jianzhong, and Hongyun Wu. “Self-regulation of homework behavior: Homework management at the secondary school level.” The Journal of Educational Research 106.1 (2013): 1-13.