The Cognition and Technology Research Group

The Department of Information Science,


The Cognition and Technology Research Group is based in the Information Science department at Stellenbosch University. We conduct research projects concerning the interplay between human cognition and emerging digital technologies. Our current research themes include human behaviour around technology, the impact of technology engagement on human cognition, and the replacement of human labour with computer-driven machinery.

What have we been up to recently?

CTRG Members present papers at CyberSpace 17

In November 2017 Daniel le Roux and Doug Parry presented papers at the 15th edition of the International Conference about Cybersecurity, Cyber-Warfare, Cybercrime, Digital Evidence, eCommerce, Government 2.0, eJustice, ODR, Intellectual Property Online, Privacy and Personal Data, New Media and Politics. The conference was hosted by Masaryk University and presented in Brno, Czech Republic.

The abstracts of the papers are available below.

Metaphors of Social Media - Read the abstract

The increasing agency of social media platforms in the lives of individuals, institutions and societies across all demographic spheres has cultivated a diverse and rapidly expanding domain of research. With the aim of advancing conceptual clarity in this domain this paper proposes four metaphors of social media to cultivate critical reflection about various aspects of these phenomena. Each metaphor is utilised as a lens through which the three primary affordance categories of prominent social media platforms (following, sharing and reacting) are analysed. This is done in relation to, firstly, users’ goals and, secondly, the implications of use behaviour for identity construction and social network formation. The four metaphors are social media as a Town Square; social media as a Beauty Pageant; social media as a Parliament; and, finally, social media as a Masquerade Ball. Social media as a Town Square concerns its role as a place where important, urgent or entertaining information is shared by influential sources and the dynamics of competition for viewers’ attention among content creators. Social media as a Beauty Pageant illuminates aspects of the presentation of self to others and users’ joint roles as judges and participants. Social media as Parliament concerns its role as a public space where competing perspectives are communicated as part of continuous debates over salient topics. Finally, social media as a Masquerade Ball explores the partial or complete obscuration of users’ true identities and the associated behavioural patterns.

Irresistible Media: Why do Students Media Multitask? - Read the abstract

Extensive, habitual off-task media multitasking has become a defining feature of today’s university students. Results from previous studies adopting quantitative methodologies indicate that media multitasking holds the potential to negatively impact academic outcomes. Against this backdrop, this study adopts a qualitative approach to investigating students’ behavioural beliefs surrounding media use; the triggers underlying media use; and, students’ behavioural patterns with media. To address these objectives five focus groups were conducted, involving a total of 30 undergraduate students. Discussion within the focus groups was guided by prominent theories of human behaviour, as well as the outcomes of previous studies. Following thematic analysis of the focus groups a number of notable themes were identified. The core finding emerging in this study is how students reason about the implications of media.


CTRG Presents a Seminar at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change at NUI Galway:

The Relationship Between Media Multitasking and Cognition – What Do We Know?

In November 2017 Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry presented a research seminar to members of the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway.  In this seminar they provided an overview of recent research concerning media multitasking and cognition, evaluating current methodologies, findings and interpretations. They concluded by offering suggestions of where research in this domain is moving in the near future.

Read the abstract

In the eight years since the publication of the Ophir, Nass and Wagner (2009) seminal study of the effects of high levels of media multitasking on cognitive performance, numerous subsequent studies have considered the relationship between these two constructs. But are we any closer to understanding their interaction?

One would expect that, over time, the nature of this relationship would become elucidated given the growth in the body of evidence produced through scientific inquiry. However, many of the subsequent studies produced inconsistent and disparate outcomes. In particular, two categories of hypotheses have emerged on the basis of recent empirical findings. The first category, which includes the breadth-bias, the self-selection and the strategic hypotheses describes how underlying individual differences drive media multitasking, and, that these differences, rather than media use behaviour, explain diminished performance on laboratory assessments of cognitive control. The second category, promoting a deficit-producing hypotheses, proposes that media multitasking leads to changes in cognition. While both of these categories hold interesting value for future research, empirical evidence is weak, inconsistent and based on small sample sizes. In particular, a number of methodological and conceptual factors are hindering progress in this regard. Nonetheless, either category of hypotheses poses challenges for the future of mediated interactions. If media multitasking causes reductions in cognitive control, there are profound ramifications for performance, both in academic, and in industrial settings. This talk will present and discuss state-of-the-art research on media multitasking and cognition, and suggest directions for future research.

CTRG Discusses Research on CapeTalk Radio

New article published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behaviour

A new article by Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry has been published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behaviour. In the article we consider the role of subject area in the relationship between media-multitasking and academic performance. Our findings partly contradicts earlier findings in this area and indicate that students in the soft sciences may be more susceptible to the distractions posed  by smartphones than their peers from other faculties.

The article is available here:

Read the abstract

The current generation of university students display an increasing propensity for media multitasking behaviour with digital devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. A growing body of empirical evidence has shown that this behaviour is associated with reduced academic performance. In this study it is proposed that the subject area within which an individual is situated may influence the relationship between media multitasking and academic performance. This proposition is evaluated, firstly, by means of a meta-review of prior studies in this area and, secondly, through a survey-based study of 1678 students at a large university in South Africa. Our findings suggest that little or no attention has been paid to variations between students from different subject areas in previous work and, based on our data, that subject area does influence the relationship between media use and academic performance. The study found that while a significant negative correlation exists between in-lecture media use and academic performance for students in the Arts and Social Sciences, the same pattern is not observable for students in the faculties of Engineering, Economic and Management Sciences, and Medical and Health Sciences.

Listen to a five-minute presentation of the study

CTRG presents findings at SACLA 2017

Doug Parry recently presented a paper on the norms and beliefs around media use in academic settings at the South African Computer Lecturers Association’s annual conference in Gauteng.

Read the abstract

The growing presence of digital media in the lives of university students signals a change in how use of such media in educational contexts should be viewed. Institutional focus on technologically mediated education and the promotion of blended learning initiatives further serve to encourage media use in academic settings. Scant attention has been afforded to the potential negative consequences arising from heightened media engagement. This is especially the case in areas of study where technological artifacts are often the medium and the subject of interest, for instance the computer and information sciences. In this study a survey methodology (n=1 678) is employed to investigate students’ use of media, as well as the behavioural beliefs, norms and motivators surrounding such use. Findings suggest that demographic factors are irrelevant as predictors of media use — off-task media use during lectures is the norm for all students. Furthermore, no link has been found between institutional attempts to curb off-task media use and changes in students’ behaviour. In terms of beliefs, our findings suggest that even students who believe use in academic contexts to be unacceptable, still frequently engage in media use in such contexts. While we acknowledge the value of, and certainly encourage continued blended learning initiatives, our findings raise a red flag regarding their implementation.

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CTRG discusses research on RSG 100 – 104 FM

Daniel le Roux was recently interviewed by Heindrich Wyngaard for RSG about the recent research findings concerning how students, as millennials use media, and how this media multitasking impacts their academic performance.


CTRG welcomes new members

Four new members have joined the CTRG, working on some new and exciting projects! Wikus Du Plessis, Melissa Muller, Samantha Warmerdam and York Senior have joined the CTRG, specifically working in the New Media and Cognitive Control research theme.

CTRG Member Jean Louis Leysens graduates Cum Laude

Jaen-Louis Leysens, a member of the CTRG in 2014 and 2015 received his MA (Socio-Informatics) degree cum laude in December 2016. Here he is with supervisor, Daniel le Roux.

CTRG Research presented at CyberSpace 2016

Daniel le Roux presented some the CTRG’s findings on habitual media-multitasking and cognitive control at CyberSpace 2016 in Brno, Czech Republic.

Visit to the University Potsdam in November 2016

Daniel le Roux visited the University of Potsdam in November 2016. He presented some of the CTRG research for the students to Prof. Hanna Krasnova, the Chair for Social Media and Data Science. A brief overview of the presentation is available on their website.


CTRG Participates in SoTL 2016

Doug Parry presented some findings from research within the CTRG relating to teaching and learning at the 2016 edition of the Stellenbosch Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference.

CTRG discusses research on MFM 92.6

Jean-Louis Leysens and Doug Parry were recently interviewed by MFM, discussing their recent findings presented at SAICSIT 2016 and a call for participation in upcoming studies.

A recording of the interview is available below.

CTRG Participates in SAICSIT 2016

Daan le Roux, Jaen-Louis Leysens, Carianne Pretorius and Doug Parry presented papers at SAICSIT 2016 hosted by the University of Johannesburg in September 2016.

About Our Research

The growing prevalence of continuous media use has potentially detrimental effects for cognitive control. Our research adopts a variety of techniques and methodologies to investigate the implications of digital media multitasking for attention management, learning and task performance. A growing body of evidence suggests that high levels of media multitasking is associated with reduced concentration as a result of its implications for inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, working memory and attention control.


le Roux, D.B., Parry, D.A. (2017) In-lecture media use and academic performance: Does subject area matter?, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 77, December, Pages 86-94,  [Download Manuscript]

le Roux D.B., Parry D.A. (2017) A New Generation of Students: Digital Media in Academic Contexts. In: Liebenberg J., Gruner S. (eds) ICT Education. SACLA 2017. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 730. Springer, Cham [Download Manuscript]

Parry, DA. (2017). The Digitally-Mediated Study Experiences of Undergraduate Students in South Africa. Master of Arts, Stellenbosch University. (Forthcoming)

Leysens, J., Le Roux, D. B., & Parry, D. (2016). Can I have your attention please? An empirical investigation of media multitasking during university lectures. In Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Research Conference on South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists. Johannesburg. [Download Manuscript]

Leysens, J. (2016). An Empirical Study of the Correlation Between Online Media Use and Academic Performance. Master of Arts, Stellenbosch University. 

Conference Presentations

Parry, D., Le Roux, D. B. (2017). Irresistible Media: Why do Students Media Multitask? Paper presented at the 2017 International CyberSpace Conference. Brno, Czech Republic.

Le Roux, D. B., Parry, D. (2017). Metaphors of Social Media. Paper presented at the 2017 International CyberSpace Conference. Brno, Czech Republic.

Parry, D. A., and le Roux D. B. (2017). Smartphones in lectures. Is Resistance Futile? Paper presented at the 10th Annual Scholarship for Teaching and Learning Conference (SOTL). 24-25 October 2017. Somerset West.

Le Roux, D. B., Parry, D., & Leysens, J. (2016). Smart Phones, Stupid People? Paper presented at the 14th International CyberSpace Conference. Brno, Czech Republic.

Parry, DA., le Roux DB, Leysens JL. (2016). Media Multitasking in Academic Contexts: An Empirical Analysis of Media Use Within University lectures. Paper presented at the 9th Annual Scholarship for Teaching and Learning conference (SOTL). 24-25 October 2016. Somerset West.


le Roux, D.B., Parry, D.A., (2017) The Relationship Between Media Multitasking and Cognition – What Do We Know? Seminar Presented at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change, NUI Galway.

le Roux, D.B., Parry, D.A., (2017) Media Multitasking and Distractibility: Where we are, how we got here and where we’re going. Seminar Presented at the Chair for Business Informatics, Social Media and Data Science, University of Potsdam, Germany.

Meet the Team


Dr. Daniel B. le Roux

E-mail: [email protected]
Office: +27 (12) 808 3803
Research Profile: Google ScholarMendeley

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a range of projects that concern the effects of media multitasking on aspects such as cognitive control, anxiety, job satisfaction and personal productivity.

Doug Parry

Mr. Douglas A. Parry

E-mail: [email protected]
Research Profile: Google Scholar, Research Gate

Personal site:

What are you currently working on?

I am currently developing a PhD proposal focusing on a general theory of media multitasking induced distractibility. In addition to this I am building on earlier work focusing on students’ behavioural beliefs and triggers surrounding media in academic contexts.


Mr. York Senior

What are you currently working on?

I am focusing more broadly on this idea of media multitasking and academic performance, seeking to establish the current state of knowledge in this area, by systematically reviewing, classifying and analyzing the previous research conducted in this area. This research project involves a meta-review of previous studies investigating media use and academic performance.


Ms. Samantha Warmerdam

What are you currently working on?

I am exploring the relationship between media multitasking and task performance. Specifically I am looking at media multitasking in general life, as well as in a lecture, and its affect on content recall.

Mr. Wikus Du Plessis

What are you currently working on?

I am evaluating the current tools employed to index media multitasking behaviour. From this, I am hoping to design and test a new tool for use in this area.


Ms. Melissa Muller

What are you currently working on?

I am focusing on the relationship between high levels of media multitasking and cognition.

International Research Partners

Dr Eoin Whelan

Dr. Whelan is a Lecturer in Business Information Systems at the National University of Ireland, Galway. His research interests focus on understanding how technologies such as social media and big data influence productivity, innovation, and decision making. His publications on these topics have appeared in the 3* journals MIT Sloan Management Review, Information Systems Journal, R&D Management, Journal of Information Technology, and Information & Organization.  His MIT Sloan paper has recently won the prestigious Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize for 2013, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT Sloan article on planned change and organisational development.


Prof Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova is a professor at the Chair of Business Informatics Social Media and Data Science at the University of Potsdam. Hanna has got her doctoral degree and habilitation from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Germany, and was previously employed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Bern in Switzerland. In her research she addresses the issues of social, individual and enterprise value of the emerging social media applications. She is the author of over 40 research articles published in the Information Systems Research (ISR), Journal of Information Technology (JIT), Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Journal of Wirtschaftsinformatik (WI / BISE), Identity in the Information Society Journal, International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) as well as other IS conferences. Her recent research about Facebook envy has been awarded the Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik in 2013 and has been covered by all major news outlets worldwide, including CNN, NBC, and REUTERS. Hanna has also been awarded a prize from the Dalle Molle Foundation for her research ideas on the link between social media use and depression among adolescents.

Get Involved

We are always on the lookout for bright minds to join the CTRG!

  • Prospective post-graduate students that are interested in conducting research in this area can do so by enrolling for the MA (Socio-Informatics) programme.
  • We also welcome post-graduate students from other disciplines that share our research interests.
  • Researchers from other South African or international institutions that wish to propose collaborative projects can contact Daan le Roux at [email protected] or +27 (21) 808 3803.

Contact Us

E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: +27 (21) 808 3803

Our offices are located on the 4th floor of the Arts and Social Sciences Building on the main campus of Stellenbosch University