Background: Generation Z (Gen Z; those born between 1997 to 2012) tends to multitask with multiple media. Studies have shown that media content influences Gen Z’s consumption behaviors that persist until adulthood. Recent studies have also focused on the media combination or the effect of media multi-tasking on the emotion, cognitive control, academic performance, or well-being of Gen Z, yet scant studies have investigated the influence of media multi-tasking on this generation’s consumption behaviors or even choice confidence. Choice confidence positively influences consumers’ intention to pay and to resist competitors’ messages.
Objective and hypotheses: This study investigates how different media multi-tasking motives influence the choice confidence of Gen Z and how conformity moderates such effects. It develops three hypotheses based on the uses and gratification theory, task repetition bias, uncertainty reduction theory, and diagnosticity-accessibility perspective. The first hypothesis suggests that habitual-cognitive (vs. emotional-social) motives result in higher task-relevant multi-tasking search (H1-1) and discussion (H1-2) behaviors. The second hypothesis proposes that higher task-relevant multi-tasking search (H2-1) and discussion (H2-2) behaviors lead to higher perceived information diagnosticity and boost subsequent choice confidence. Finally, the third hypothesis advocates that conformity interacts with media multi-tasking motives on task-relevant multi-tasking search (H3-1) and discussion (H3-2) behaviors and moderates the serial mediation effects. The serial mediation effects only hold for Gen Z with lower conformity.
Method: This study analyzes the 2020 Taiwanese Communication Survey (Phase Two, Year Four) and its data targeting adolescences. The survey was conducted from November 11, 2020, to January 19, 2021 and used a two-stage stratified cluster sampling design. Five hundred twenty-one weighted cases (539 unweighted cases) reported multitasking with multiple media and analyzed. The measure of media multitasking motive was adapted from Zhang and Zhang (2012) and Wang and Tchernev (2012). The Taiwanese Communication Survey developed the measure of conformity, and the measures of task-relevant multi-tasking search and discussion behaviors were adapted from Ran and Yamamoto (2019). Finally, the measures of perceived information diagnosticity and choice confidence were adapted from Flavián et al. (2016).
Findings: The hypotheses involve two moderated serial mediation models: one for multi-tasking search and the other for multi-tasking discussion behavior. This study applies model 83 of Haye’s PROCESS with the 5000 bootstrapping method to analyze the two models. The results show that habitual-cognitive (vs. emotional-social) motive results in higher task-relevant multi-tasking search behavior, b = .85, p < .01, supporting H1-1. Higher task-relevant multi-tasking search behavior leads to greater perceived information diagnosticity, b = .39, p < .001, which leads to higher choice confidence, b = .25, p < .001, supporting H2-1. Finally, conformity significantly interacts with the media multi-tasking motive on task-relevant multi-tasking search behavior, b = -.23, p < .01, and moderates the serial mediation effect, 95% CI [-.04, -.01]. Pairwise contrasts between the conditional indirect effect further show that the moderated serial mediation effect is significantly different between the Gen Z with higher and lower conformities, 95% CI [-.06, -.01], supporting H3-1. In addition, the results show that habitual-cognitive (vs. emotional-social) motive does not result in higher task-relevant multi-tasking discussion behavior, b = .20, p = .61, rejecting H1-2. Higher task-relevant multi-tasking discussion behavior leads to greater perceived information diagnosticity, b = .24, p < .001, which leads to higher choice confidence, b = .24, p < .001, supporting H2-2. Finally, conformity does not interact with media multi-tasking motive on task-relevant multi-tasking discussion behavior, b = -.06, p = .55, and does not moderate the serial mediation effect, 95% CI [-.02, .01], rejecting H3-2.
Discussion: The results show that conformity moderates the serial mediation effect of media multi-tasking motive, task-relevant multi-tasking search behavior, information diagnosticity, and choice confidence. For Gen Z with lower conformity, habitual-cognitive multi-taskers are more likely to conduct relevant search behavior while multi-tasking. They perceive higher information diagnosticity and have greater choice confidence than emotional social multi-taskers. Nonetheless, the serial mediation effect does not hold for Gen Z with higher conformity. The moderated serial mediation effect also does not hold for task-relevant multi-tasking discussion behavior. This study contributes to the existing literature in the following aspects. First, it explores the relationship between media multitasking motives and choice confidence of Gen Z to fill the knowledge gap. Second, this study demonstrates the applicability of the uses and gratification theory to studies of media multi-tasking of Gen Z. This study extends the one goal perspective of the uses and gratification theory by dividing it into one goal and a common goal in the context of media multi-tasking. One goal and a common goal result in lower and higher task-relevant media multi-tasking behaviors. Third, we integrate the uses and gratification theory, task repetition bias, uncertainty reduction theory, and diagnosticity-accessibility perspective to develop a proposed moderated serial mediation model. The model posits that conformity moderates the effect of media multi-tasking motive on choice confidence through the serial mediation of task-relevant multi-tasking search behavior and perceived information diagnosticity.