when doing research about multitasking I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the supposed negative downsides to performing multiple actions at once. “Pleasantly” only because I personally find it near impossible to really multitask.
And The Winner Is…
A study by Professor Clifford Nass published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that contrary to popular belief, multitasking isn’t actually a good skill and suggests that multitasking may hinder various cognitive responses. The study focused on media multitaskers, people who commit to multiple media based activities at a time for example; responding to emails while talking to someone on the phone. Various basic tests found that media multitaskers were more easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli than people who tackle media tasks one at a time, where less capable of switching between tasks, displayed less concentration and had lower performing memory.
Taking a critical look t how the test was done I found the 100 people sample size wasn’t particularly big, especially when it was split into two groups representing each variable. A larger sample size would’ve been more reliable but the results appear fairly defined. Individual tests were used to test individual cognitive action which, again, I think is a somewhat unreliable sample size but nonetheless the results of each test appear fairly defined.
Overall, the test seemed to show that multitasking may be detrimental to a person. Multitaskers train themselves to not respond strongly to any particular stimuli and so they lose the ability to concentrate or focus on specific tasks.
I’m Safe… Maybe
I thought about my media usage and initially thought that my cognitive functions should be relatively fine (disregarding the long nights staying up to do uni work) but on closer inspection I media multitask more than In notice. For example, I check social media on my phone and respond to messages occasionally while watching TV or Youtube, I read tweets that are coming in while I write my own, in fact, I’m listening to music while writing this post right now (I can practically feel my brain rotting).
Why Do I Do This To Myself?
I find that I often don’t have time to do all the things I need and want to do in a timely manner. At work I need to multitask in order to get things done in time or all chaos would ensue. As apparently harmful multitasking is, it may just be essential in this information age where everything needs to happen five minutes ago and no one thing can take priority. Much like anything else in the world, I guess balance is the key. Aristotle believed that virtues are an appropriate balance of vices (Courage is between rashness and cowardice), perhaps efficiency without laziness is a modern virtue we must learn to adopt?