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?


New Article in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace

In a new article published in Cyberpsychology, Drs Parry and le Roux present the results of a meta-analysis. In the decade since Ophir, Nass, and Wagner’s (2009) seminal study numerous researchers have investigated possible associations between media multitasking and cognitive control. Extending recent reviews, the present study provides a synthesis of extant research into this association across measurement approachs and cognitive functions. Following a systematic search and selection process, 118 assessments were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, the pooled effect size of the association, across measurement approaches and cognitive control functions, is small. This association is moderated both by the measurement approach as well as by the outcome variables targeted. These differences are tested and explained in detail. Building on the findings, it is recommended that research be conducted to determine the sources of heterogeneity in outcomes, understand differences between measurement approaches, and address causality and theoretical mechanisms. Overall, the review suggests that, ten years on, we are no closer to understanding ‘cognitive control in media multitaskers.’

The article is freely available here.


New Article in the Journal of Information Technology & People

In a new article in the Journal of Information Technology & People we investigate the role of three personal characteristics (emotional intelligence, rumination and identity distress) as predictors of online vigilance in addition to media use behaviour. Online vigilance is a novel construct which describes individual differences in users’ cognitive orientation to online connectedness, their attention to and integration of online-related cues and stimuli and their prioritisation of online communication. Its proponents argue that it is acquired through the processes of instrumental and attentional training that underlie media use behaviours. Our findings indicate that while media use behaviours (daily smartphone use, social media use, messaging, video watching and media multitasking) predict online vigilance, their combined effect is weak. However, when considering these behaviours in combination with trait rumination and identity distress, a moderate effect is observable.

Download a preprint version of the article.


New Article in the Journal of Computers and Education

In a new article, published in the Journal of Computers and Education, we adopted a survey-based methodology to investigate the relationship between media use patterns and academic performance among students from three countries in Southern Africa. In addition to self-reported media use measures, we investigated the predictive capacity of online vigilance on academic performance. Online vigilance is a novel construct which describes individual differences in users’ cognitive orientation to online connectedness, their attention to and integration of online-related cues and stimuli, and their prioritisation of online communication. Our findings (n=1445) indicate a weak, negative association between self-reported media use measures and academic performance, as well as online vigilance and academic performance. Combined, media use and online vigilance predict 9% of variance in academic performance for our full sample. However, when considering only Namibian students (n=402), they predict 27% of variance. The study findings raise important questions relating to concerns over the potential impacts of general media use behaviours on academic performance among university students.

Download a preprint version of the article.


Rethinking Social Media Through Metaphor

In a recently published book chapter, Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry explore the use of four metaphors as a means to illuminate particular dimensions of social media logic —the norms, strategies, and economics underpinning its dynamics. The first metaphor, social media as a town square, draws attention to the centrality of social media platforms in their users’ lives, fear of missing out, augmented reality and digital dualism. Through the second metaphor, social media as a beauty pageant, they explore self-presentation or image crafting, social comparison and self-evaluation. The third metaphor, social media as a parliament, emphasises the role of social media platforms as spaces for online deliberation and we consider social media capital, homophily and polarisation as themes. Finally, they explore anonymity, deindividuation and deceptive self-presentation through our fourth metaphor, social media as a masquerade ball. Social media scholars can use these and other metaphors to enhance communication of their research findings. Additionally, the metaphors can be powerful pedagogical and communication tools, particularly when working with students for whom high levels of social media use is the norm.

Download a preprint copy of the paper here.


Douglas Parry Interviewed on CapeTalk Radio

In March 2020 Douglas Parry was interviewed by Joanne Joseph from CapeTalk Radio. Listen to a recording of the interview below.

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Sakhumzi Mbilini and Douglas Parry Graduate

In December 2o19 two CTRG member graduated. Douglas Parry received his PhD and Sakhumzi Mbilini received his MA. Douglas Parry will be joining Stellenbosch University as Lecturer on a permanent basis from January 2020, while Sakhumzi has taken up a position with Huawei in Johannesburg.


CTRG Presents Findings at Cyberspace 2019

The annual Cyberspace conference hosted by Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic) has become an important event on the CTRG calendar. This year three members of the group presented their findings at the conference. Adrian Abendroth presented findings based on his analysis of technology addiction scales, Mike Henry presented findings based on a systematic review of studies considering the well-being of virtual team members, and Daniel le Roux presented an early version of the Media Use Dimensions framework currently under development. The abstracts of these presentations are below.

Technology Use Addiction: Scales, Dimensions, Validity?

In response to concerns about the possibility of technology use addiction, researchers have developed a variety of self-report scales to assess behavioural addictions relating to use of the Internet, smartphones, videogames, or social networking sites. Despite the growth in research attention, or perhaps as a result, conceptions of such addictions are disputed, diverse, and lacking a core set of dimensions. To address this problem, building on a conceptual framework using prominent models of behavioural addiction and the dimensions of addiction described in the DSMV, we conducted a structured analysis of 50 self-report scales (including 971 individual items) used to assess technology use addictions. From this analysis we found that, while there exists some degree of conformance to established addiction dimensions, there is substantial diversity in the scales. Two dimensions, compulsive use and negative outcomes, were found to account for over 50% of all items considered. The assessment of cognitive absorption was identified as a novel dimension potentially important for technology use addiction. Three questions extend from the study. First, given current debates about technology addiction, what distinguishes behavioural from substance addiction and, which dimensions are needed for its assessment? Third, given the study findings, how valid are the scales assessed as indications of technology use addiction?

Instant Message Usage in Virtual Teams: A Systematic Review of Interruptions

As distributed work increases in frequency, the impact of Instant Messaging (IM) and other Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) tools increases. This increased use of collaboration tools can lead to increased communication within teams, but can also lead to high levels of media multitasking and information overload. This presentation examines the different types of CSCW tools (instant messaging, social networking, and video chat, among others), and their frequency of use within organizations. Secondly, this presentation examines existing research on the topic, looking specifically at the type and frequency of interruptions created by IM tools. Previous research has identified Work Interruption, Interactivity, and Communication Quality as separate factors of IM tools (Ou and Davison, 2011). This presentation focuses on the interruption factor. To explore relevant studies, a PRISMA approach was used. This presentation intends to discover common results across a broad set of journals, looking specifically at interruptions caused by IM tool usage in virtual teams.

Towards an Integrated Framework of Technology Use Dimensions

The past decade has seen growing interest in the effects of permanently connected living on human well-being. Prominent themes include anxiety and depression associated with the use of social network sites, cognitive control deficits associated with media multitasking, and addiction to technology. Due to the restrictions and inaccuracy associated with self-report measures of technology use, researchers have attempted to harness trace data to gain more accurate data about technology use behaviour. Such efforts include the development of applications which track smartphone use based on variables such as screen unlocks, active applications and session duration. While these instruments provide certain benefits over self-report, they are limited in their ability to elucidate the nature of use. To guide the improvement of data collection applications, a conceptual framework describing the dimensions of technology use behaviour is required. Despite a limited number of isolated efforts to develop such frameworks, no standardised or broadly accepted version currently exists. To address this challenge we are conducting a multi-phase project to identify, describe and integrate the dimensions of technology use. We believe that the resulting framework will advance research on technology use effects by contextualising discrepant findings Partners Media Partners across existing studies, and informing measurement and instrument development/adoption in future studies.


Exchange visit to the University of Potsdam and the Weizenbaum Institute

In November 2019 Drs Douglas Parry and Daniel le Roux visited the Chairs of Business Informatics at the University of Potsdam and the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society in Berlin, Germany to present a number of methods workshops and research seminars. The Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society – The German Internet Institute was founded in 2017 with headquarters in Berlin.  It is a joint project involving research groups from Freie Universität Berlin , Humboldt University Berlin , Technische Universität Berlin , Berlin University of the Arts , Potsdam University , the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) and the Berlin Social Science Research Center (WZB ) as coordinator.


New Article published in the journal of Computers in Human Behaviour

A New Article by Douglas Parry, Daniel le Roux and Jason Bantjes (SU: Psychology) has been published in Computers in Human Behaviour. The article reports on the outcomes of a month-long media multitasking intervention study  among students.


Media multitasking has been associated with a number of adverse cognitive, psychosocial, and functional outcomes. In particular, associations between media multitasking and the executive or cognitive control processes theorised to underlie the execution of goal-directed behaviour have been shown. In response to calls for investigations considering the remedial efficacy of interventions targeting media multitasking and related cognitive effects, the present study investigates the feasibility of a self-regulation based media multitasking intervention for a student population. Through a mixed-methods study involving a between-subjects, pre/post experimental design, usage tracking, and follow-up interviews, four feasibility dimensions were investigated: demand, implementation, acceptability, and efficacy. The findings indicate, firstly, that a greater cognisance of media behaviour is key to behaviour change and goal-alignment, secondly, that such behavioural changes were perceived to enable more instances of single-tasking, goal-oriented task-execution and, as a result, engender state-level changes in attentional strategies and, thirdly, that short-term behavioural changes do not necessarily imply trait-level changes in cognitive functioning. Key implications for media-effects research in general and, more specifically, for research concerning media-related interference are discussed.

Download the article

View the original


Engaging Psychiatrists about the impact of Media Use on Well-being

In October Dr. Daan le Roux presented a seminar at the 2019 Cipla Psychiatry Forum held at the Arabella Hotel in the Western Cape. In his seminar he addressed three important dimensions of the relationship between media use and well-being. The first concerned the influence of social media use on self-esteem and the various factors which may moderate this influence. The second concerned the impact of media multitasking on primary task performance. The third concerned the hypothesis which suggests that chronic media multitasking may, overtime, harm our cognitive control ability.


Exchange visit to the University of Botswana

In October 2019 Dr. Daan le Roux embarked on a three-week staff exchange visit to the University of Botswana in Gaborone, Botswana. As part of this visit he engaged staff and students on a range of topics including research practices in media saturated environments, the fourth industrial revolution, the evolution of IS development paradigms and the impacts of chronic media multitasking on mental well-being. The exchange was funded by the TRACCAfrica programme of the European commission. The programme’s objective is to improve the skills and competences of students and staff through enhanced mobility between African countries, strengthening cooperation between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Africa.


New Article in the Journal of American College Health

A new article by Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry has been published in the Journal of American College Health. The article reports a study concerning self-regulation failures among university students in the context of media use. The authors argue that this form of self-regulation failure typically leads to the procrastination of academic work and negative well-being outcomes.


Objective: The effects of off-task media use in academic settings on academic performance have been widely reported. In response, a range of interventions have been proposed. Among these have been calls for the cultivation of more effective self-regulation of media use. Against this backdrop, the present study investigates students’ self-regulation of off-task media in academic settings. Method: A series of focus groups was conducted involving 30 undergraduate students at a large, South African university. A combination of inductive and deductive analysis was conducted on the basis of prominent theories of self-regulation. Results: The presence of off-task media in academic settings create ongoing experiences of goal-conflict and many students become trapped in cycles of repeated self-regulation failure, ultimately culminating in procrastination. Conclusions: We refer to this phenomenon as the media procrastination cycle and argue that it contributes to negative affect, stress and anxiety among students.

Download the article.

Engaging entrepreneurs about the effects of chronic multitasking

In July 2019, Daniel le Roux was invited to host a session about the effects of chronic multitasking on well-being for a group of Pretoria-based entrepreneurs. The session commenced with a short talk during which Daniel described the recent scientific evidence of the interactions between these constructs. This was followed by group-based discussions on the various strategies participants adopts to cope with information and communication overload, and how these impact their productivity and work/life satisfaction.

New Article in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace

Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry recently published a new article in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. The article reports a survey-based study on the differences in attentional strategies adopted by high and low media multitaskers. The full article is available (open access) at

Read the abstract

The rapid advancement of mobile computing devices and the ever-growing range of infotainment services they enable have cultivated high levels of media multitasking. Studies have considered the effects of this form of behaviour for cognitive control ability, with findings suggesting that chronic media multitasking is associated with reduced inhibitory control. In this study we advance knowledge in this domain by investigating differences in the attention distribution strategies of high and low media multitaskers (HMMs and LMMs) through a simple, two-dimensional game. 1 063 university students completed a web-based survey concerning their media multitasking behaviour and played the 2D game. Contributing to the ecological validity of the study the game was played within the respondent’s web-browser, as part of the survey, at a time and place (and on a computer) of their choosing. During gameplay one of two different banners, both irrelevant to the game, were displayed adjacent to the game. No instructions were provided in relation to the banners. Our analysis considered respondents’ performance in the game in relation to both their media multitasking and the content of the banner displayed. Our findings suggest that while HMMs attend to distracting stimuli independent of their content or salience, LMMs are more selective. This selectivity enables improved primary task performance when distracting stimuli are deemed unimportant. Additionally, we found that LMMs generally recalled banner information more accurately after the game was played.

New Article in the Journal of Computers in Human Behaviour

A new article by Douglas Parry and Daniel le Roux is now available via the Journal of Computers in Human Behaviour. The article reports a systematic review of interventions targeting cognitive control changes associated with chronic media multitasking. The article can be downloaded free of charge until 13 January 2019 using the following link:

Read the abstract

Extending from the increasing prevalence of media in personal, social, and work environments, research has indicated that media multitasking (i.e., engaging in more than one media or non-media activity simultaneously) is associated with changes in cognitive control and failures of everyday executive functioning. While more research is required to elucidate these associations, the emergent trend, while small, suggests a negative relationship between high levels of media multitasking and aspects of cognitive control. In response, researchers have called for studies investigating the remedial efficacy of interventions targeting the effects of media multitasking on executive functioning. To provide a foundation for such research this systematic review integrates current findings concerning such interventions. Four databases (Web of Science, Scopus, Academic Search Premier, and PsycINFO) were searched to identify relevant studies, producing 2792 results. 15 studies met the eligibility criteria. At the time of review current interventions fall into three categories: awareness, restriction, and mindfulness. While some interventions have been effective at changing behaviour or cognitive outcomes, no single category contains interventions which, categorically, produced improvements in attention-related performance. Extending from this synthesis key research gaps are identified, with suggestions for future research proposed.

CTRG Conference presentation

CTRG Presents Research at SOTL and Milton H Erikson Conference

In late October CTRG member Douglas Parry had the opportunity to present our work at two local conferences. At the Milton H. Erikson annual conference, he presented on the topic: Permanently Online, Permanently Connected: Media Multitasking and Distractibility – Is it so bad and What can we do about it? At the Stellenbosch University Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) annual conference he presented on the topic: Lecturer versus Smartphone: Towards a Policy for Teaching Distracted Minds.

Read the abstract

Personal use of mobile devices like smartphones and laptops is prevalent in academic settings like lectures, practical classes and personal study sessions (Abramova et al., 2017). When students’ media use aligns with academic tasks, it can promote learning outcomes (Kong and Song, 2015). Evidence suggests, however, that the majority of media use is unrelated to academic activities (Zhang and Zhang, 2012). This is referred to as off-task media use (OTMU) and, as is evident in recent studies, it presents as a disruption, distracting both users and those around them (Chen and Yan, 2016).

For both policy specification and lecture presentation OTMU poses a challenge for learning institutions. While some lecturers impose restrictive policies, others adopt passive stances, allowing students to use their devices as they deem appropriate (Berger, 2017). Researchers have called for investigations of policies that seek a solution which empowers students to leverage the value of media but curb the disrupting effects of unchecked OTMU.

In this study, we conducted an exploratory mixed-methods assessment of a media-use policy in a semester-long course. This policy divided the lecture theatre into two sections, one for those who wished to use digital devices and one for those who did not. Such a policy empowered students to leverage the value of media if desired while affording those who wished not to use media or be disrupted by their peers’ media-use, a degree of protection from distracting cues. Through attendance and mark analysis, it was found that those who consistently selected the same side performed better than those who moved from side to side. Additionally, through two focus groups, it was found that the policy heightened awareness of the possible distractions of OTMU, enabling the identification and maintenance of a strategy for in-lecture attentional allocation and behaviour. This study suggests that, while it is important to be aware of OTMU in lectures, it is also necessary to acknowledge the strategies students bring to lectures and how policies can be implemented and enforced to facilitate the acquisition and enhancement of attentional strategies aligned with a course’s learning outcomes.

CTRG Discusses Research on 702 Talk Radio

On 24 July Dr. Daniel le Roux was interviewed by Azania Mosaka on Radio 702. Listen below to hear him discuss automation and employment and how this might play out in South Africa.

Radio Interview about Automation and Employment

On 20 July 2018 Daniel le Roux was interviewed on Classic Business Breakfast with Moneyweb on Classic FM. The interview concerned his research on the potential implications of automation for the South African labour market. Listen to the interview below.

Panel Discussion on the 4th Industrial Revolution in South Africa

On 19 July 2018, the CTRG attended a Leader’s Angle panel discussion hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School. The panel discussion was facilitated by Martin Butler and featured Dr Albert Strever, Alison Jacobson, and Prof Thomas Thurner as speakers. The panel discussion was on the impact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will have on South Africa. The initial discussion was on the readiness of South Africa for 4IR. It was discussed that the capabilities of technologies will expand to not only replace routine jobs but those that also require creativity. There will be a need for labour to acquire skills that will complement automation. As the capabilities of automation continuously expand, labour will be required to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. The subsequent discussion was on the use of 4IR technologies in agriculture. Panelists pointed out that labour regulation obstructs the adoption of automation technologies. The final discussion was on the consequences and strategies from the adoption of 4IR in business. The main strategy amongst businesses with this revolution is that companies expand or innovate upon existing solutions in niche markets. This allows companies to collaborate and provide new solutions quicker. South African companies can, therefore, compete globally in niche markets for demand big companies are not fulfilling.

SACLA 2018, best paper and Springer CCIS publication

In a new article (soon to be published in an upcoming volume of Springer’s ‘Communications in Computer and Information Science’ series) by Douglas Parry and Daniel le Roux, the determinants of off-task media use (OTMU) in lectures are considered.

Daniel le Roux recently presented this paper at the 2018 annual conference of the South African Computer Lecturers Association, where it received the best paper award (Pictured: Douglas Parry with the award).

Read the abstract

A strong body of evidence indicates that university students frequently engage in off-task media use (OTMU) during lectures. While the bulk of research in this area has considered the frequency, and impact of such behaviour through quantitative methods, little work concerning the subjective and contextual factors that determine OTMU in academic settings has been conducted. In this study we adopt a qualitative approach to consider the determinants of this behaviour. We collected data through a series of focus groups involving undergraduate students. Seven key factors that determine students’ OTMU in lectures are identified: OTMU policy, OTMU norms, Fear of missing out, Grit, Control over technology, Quality of lecture, and Visibility of peers’ OTMU. We propose a model which specifies the interrelationships between these factors and discuss, on this basis, how institutions and lecturers can navigate the challenges posed by OTMU in lectures.

New Article Published on the Possible Future Impact of Automation on Labour Demand in South Africa

Daniel le Roux  recently published a new article investigating the impact of automation on labour demand in South Africa. In the two centuries since the Industrial Revolution technological progress has had a major impact on the types of work humans perform. The invention of increasingly advanced machinery decreases, on one hand, the need for certain forms of manual labour while, on the other, creating new needs and new types of work. Through continuous cycles of this process advanced industries have emerged enabling standards of living to rise across the world. The most recent wave of technological progress is characterized by increasingly intelligent computers and computer-driven machinery. This has coincided with the rise of economic inequality in previously egalitarian countries, prompting debate over the implications of the computer revolution for low and medium-skilled workers. In this study focus falls on the possible implications of these developments for the South African labour market. By using an oft-cited index of occupation computerization probabilities in combination with Stats SA labour market data, a future outlook is determined and presented. Findings suggest that the occupations performed by almost 35% of South African workers (roughly 4.5 million people) are potentially automatable in the near future.

Access the article at
Download a pre-print manuscript here.

Daan le Roux discusses the effects of Media Multitasking with clinical team at Zithulele Hospital

In April 2018 Daniel le Roux  was invited to present a talk on media multitasking to the clinical team at Zithulele hospital. The hospital is located in a rural part of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. The clinical team at the hospital have, over time, organically developed an informal communication system based on instant messaging to ensure effective and efficient work systems in the hospital. However, they are wary of the effects that continuous media-based communication may have on the quality of their work and their well-being in the workplace. An interesting discussion ensued about the balance between the value of mediated communication and the negative effects of chronic media multitasking.

Winneke van der Schuur talks about her Research in Stellenbosch

Winneke van der Schuur recently completed her PhD at the University of Amsterdam in which she investigated the effects of media multitasking on four aspects of adolescents’ lives: attention, academic performance, socioemotional functioning and sleep. On 30 January 2018 she visited the CTRG in Stellenbosch and presented a talk on the findings of her study.

Read the abstract of her thesis

Juggling with media: The consequences of media multitasking for adolescent development

More than ever, adolescents juggle with media. They use multiple media simultaneously, for example, they send text messages to their friends while watching a movie. In addition, they use media during academic and social activities, such as watching YouTube videos while doing homework. Although this rise in media multitasking among adolescents is almost inevitable, researchers have expressed concerns that media multitasking may be harmful for several aspects of adolescent development, such as attention, academic achievement, socioemotional functioning, and sleep. Despite these concerns, empirical evidence regarding potential negative consequences of media multitasking on adolescent development was limited. All chapters of this dissertation show that media multitasking and adolescent development are cross-sectionally related. However, findings on the actual impact of media multitasking on adolescent development are more nuanced. This dissertation has solely yielded small long-term relationships between media multitasking and some aspects of adolescent development. Although the conclusion might be that media multitasking is less problematic for adolescent development than often assumed, the findings do emphasize that there is still reason for caution regarding specific developmental domains, such as attention and sleep. Considering that media and communication devices will become increasingly integrated into adolescents’ lives, it is expected that media multitasking will continue to rise among adolescents. Therefore, the question on how adolescents should deal with the omnipresence of media and communication devices becomes even more important in the upcoming years.

Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry of the CTRG visit to Chair for Social Media and Data Science at Potsdam University.

Visit to the University Potsdam in November 2017

In November, Dr. Daniel le Roux and Douglas Parry presented a seminar at the Chair for Business Informatics, esp. Social Media and Data Science at Potsdam University, on the latest research concerning media multitasking and cognition. This seminar focused specifically on the methodological state of research in this domain, and the implications this has for findings and future studies. A brief overview of the presentation is available on their website, with photos on the Facebook page.

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.


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.








  • Parry,  D.  A.,  le  Roux,  D.  B.,  Morton,  J.,  Pons,  R.,  Pretorius,  R.,  Schoeman,  A.,  (2020).  Are  ‘Digital  Wellbeing  Applications’  Important  for  Digital  Wellbeing? Paper presented at the 18th International  CyberSpace Conference, Online.


  • Le Roux, D. B., Parry, D. (2019). Towards an Integrated Framework of Technology Use Dimensions. Paper presented at the 2019 International CyberSpace Conference. Brno, Czech Republic.
  • Abendroth, A., Krasnova, H., le Roux, D.B., Parry, D.A., Gundlach, J. (2019). Technology Use Addiction: Scales, Dimensions, Validity? Paper presented at the 2019 International CyberSpace Conference. Brno, Czech Republic.
  • Henry, M. (2019). Instant Message Usage in Virtual Teams: A Systematic Review of Interruptions. Paper presented at the 2019 International CyberSpace Conference. Brno, Czech Republic.


  • Parry, D. A., le Roux, D. B. & Cornelissen, L. A. (2018). Lecturer versus Smartphone: Towards a Policy for Teaching Distracted Minds. Paper Presented at the 11th Annual Scholarship for Teaching and Learning Conference (SOTL). 29-31 October 2018. Somerset West, South Africa. [Slides]


  • 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. (2020) Partnering with African Universities to investigate Media Multitasking, Online Vigilance and Academic Performance among University Students. Seminar presented at the Stellenbosch University African University Day Seminar on 12 November 2020.
  • Parry, D.A. (2020). Media effects Research:  Our work and current challenges. Lecture presented at the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University on 24 February 2020.
  • Le Roux, D. B. (2020). Permanently Online, Permanently Connected: Should we be concerned? Colloquium presented at the Department of Psychology, Stellenbosch University on 24 February 2020.
  • Le Roux, D. B. (2020). Attention in a Time of Chronic Media Use. Lecture presented at The University of Stellenbosch Business School on 5 February 2020.


  • Le Roux, D. B. (2019). Screen Time, Social Media and Smartphones: Making sense of the interaction between chronic technology use and well-being. Presented at the 2019 Cipla Psychiatry Forum, Hermanus, South Africa on 12 October 2019.
  • Parry, D. A. (2019). Technology use effects: current evidence and challenges. Invited Seminar presented at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, 27 September 2019.
  • Le Roux D. B. (2019).  Media Multitasking and the Culture of Distraction. Seminar presented at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Botswana on 3 October 2019.
  • Le Roux D. B. (2019). Screentime, Digital Multitasking and Survival. Public lecture presented at Pretoria Entrepreneurs Meetup, Pretoria, South Africa on 25 July 2019.
  • Le Roux D. B. (2019) Self-organisation in Socio-technical systems. Public lecture presented to the Stellenbosch Tech Hub, Stellenbosch, South Africa on 18 July 2019.
  • Le Roux D. B. (2019) Forecasting the Impact of 4IR on Labour Demand in South Africa. Workshop presented to the Tripartite Working Group established by Anglo American, Johannesburg, South Africa on 18 June 2019.


  • Parry, D.A. and le Roux D. B. (2018) Permanently Online, Permanently Connected: Media Multitasking and Distractibility – Is It So Bad and What Can We Do About It? Milton H. Erikson Annual Conference 2018. Somerset West, South Africa.


  • 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 Scholar

Doug Parry

Dr Douglas A. Parry

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

Personal site:


Image from iOS (2)

Liezel Conradie

Work-related communication vigilance

An important consequence of the rapid development and adoption of mobile computing devices is that they enable us to be permanently connected to a range of web-based communication platforms. This implies that, independent of physical location or time of day, we are able to engage with information from various domains of our lives (e.g., family, friends, work, hobbies etc.). While this connectivity offers various benefits, it also raises challenges in terms of our maintenance of the boundaries between, for example, work and family life. In my research I investigate the implications of this boundary blurring and the impact it has on the well-being of working professionals.


Mike Henry

How do virtual teams integrate enterprise social media platforms into their operations?

The past decade has seen the proliferation of communication platforms and tools that enable organisations to coordinate their projects and employees across geographic and temporal boundaries. This has enabled the emergence of new work practices (e.g., working from home (WFH), distributed work, remote work, and virtual teams). In this project interest falls on the manner in which workers in virtual teams distributed across countries and continents integrate enterprise social media (ESM) platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams into their day-to-day operations.


Ruth Pons

Social norms around smartphone use in family settings

As smartphones continue to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, the social norms around their use in social settings emerges as a contentious issue. In this project emphasis falls on how these norms are shaped and enacted in the context of family settings where both parents and adolescent children have their own smartphones.

Tanya Steyn

Scientific uncertainty and ambiguity aversion on Twitter

Novel phenomena like Covid-19 are often characterised by scientific uncertainty with various gaps in our knowledge and understanding of their nature. However, as human being we have a natural aversion to ambiguity and cognitive dissonance. In this project we adopt a natural language processing approach to investigate this tension by considering the posts of various stakeholder groups on the social media platform Twitter.

Petrus Loots

Imposter syndrome among junior software developers

Software development is a very dynamic working environment and developers can easily find them- selves jumping form one project to the next. Differences among these projects can mean that each project requires a developer to learn new technologies. Adapting to these kinds of changes can be difficult especially under youth with less experience. In this study we will measure these feelings by investigating the presence and influence of imposter syndrome in young adults transitioning into software development roles.

International Research Partners


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