Multitasking, it’s something we are all guilty of. To be honest I’m doing it right now and I bet you are too. In my opinion the concept of multitasking just makes sense, why do one thing when you can do EVERYTHING?
This kid gets it…
In terms of getting things done multitasking equals productivity right? Efficiency in it’s most basic definition is to get more done in less time. From this viewpoint multitasking is key and particularly paramount for anyone leading a busy life in this modern age. Since the introduction of convergent technologies like that of the inter-web and the smart-phone, multitasking is not only facilitated, it is encouraged. Our lives have become so media saturated that multitasking isn’t even a skill anymore it’s a social norm. But what if I told you our brains were barley capable of multitasking and what we were actually doing was simply diverting attention and veering on the path of distraction…
Psychologist Kendra Cherry says that multitasking, within the brain, is managed by what are known as mental executive functions. These executive functions control and manage other cognitive processes and determine how, when and in what order certain tasks are performed.
According to researchers Meyer, Evans and Rubinstein (2001) there are two stages to the executive control process. Goal Shifting (deciding to do one thing instead of another) and Role Activation (changing from the rules for the previous task to rules for the new task). Productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks. This is because it takes time to adjust to the context and processes of the new task. While the time it takes to adjust is minimal, constantly swapping back and forth causes an accumulation of delay.
A study on the effects of multitasking in the learning environment by Helene Hembrooke and Geri Gay (2003) found that students who have their laptops open during lectures and freely browse unrelated material have a significant decrease in short-term recall of lecture information than those who keep their laptops closed.
These are questions that I can not answer being a student guilty this practice myself. (However, not in BCM240 because that lecture is too exciting and I would never want to lose concentration). I still believe my self able to multitask despite the fact I know can’t and I am especially guilty of doodling during lectures and tutorials :S
I’m not saying that multitasking is not important, it is extremely useful and has subsequently become a major part of functioning society. What we need to do is determine when multitasking is effective and when it is merely a hindrance to concentration. The only way I feel to do that is to find a healthy medium between doing several things quickly and doing one thing well.
Cherry, K 2014, Multitasking The Cognitive Costs of Multitasking, About Education, viewed 13 September 2014, <http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/a/costs-of-multitasking.htm>.
Hembrooke, H & Gay, G 2003, ‘The Laptop and the Lecture: The Effects of Multitasking in Learning Environments’, Journal of Computing in Higher Education, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 46-64.
Rubinstein, J Meyer, D & Evens, J 2001, ‘Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching’, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 763-797.