Individuals’ Preferences in Multiple Goal Pursuit: Revisiting the Conceptualization and Measurement of Multitasking Preferences
With increasing demands in people’s work and life, successful self-regulation of multiple goals/tasks becomes important to one’s well-being and performance. One individual difference in this process is one’s preference for multitasking (i.e., polychronicity), which was found to be important in individuals’ psychological experience and performance. However, in terms of our understanding of the nature of this construct, there are at least two issues: 1) most research has assumed that preference for multitasking and preference for sequential pursuit are opposite ends of one continuum, which has not been directly tested; 2) different scales of polychronicity differ on their definitions of multitasking. To address these gaps, the present research seeks to clarify the relationships among individuals’ multitasking preferences and to develop a new and improved scale of these individual differences for future research in multitasking. To do so, three studies (N = 1367) were conducted to create and validate a scale that measures three potentially distinct preferences: concurrent preference, switching preference, and sequential preference. These studies empirically tested the relationships among the three preferences. The results were replicated in both goal and task contexts and with different response anchors. Findings suggest that it is questionable to assume multitasking preference and sequential preference are antithetical, while concurrent and switching preferences were highly correlated. I conclude with a discussion of the theoretical implications and future directions for multitasking research.