August 25, 2009
Multitaskers Can Have, Uh, Cognitive Problems
The brain is in the news again. Not the mouse who wants to take over the world, but the one inside the head. This time the news involves the cognitive abilities of multitaskers. A series of tests show that people who multitask the most have a hard time concentrating and avoiding distractions compared to those multitasking the least. The study is called Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers, and authored by Eyal Ophira, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner. It is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 106 (33), August 25, 2009. The tests are described in an article on the Wired web site as requiring individuals to remember the layout of various displays of rectangles and to characterize groups of words from one time to another. Multitaskers consistently had performance problems when tested. I'd tell you more but I can't remember much about it having checked my three email accounts for the 30th time in the last five hours. Luckily I can remember where the citation is from. Read about it in Wired, here. [MG]
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For those who may not have time to read the article (much less study the science behind it), I think one of the most important paragraphs to note is this one:
'As for what caused the differences — whether people with a predisposition to multitask happen to be mentally disorganized, or if multitasking feeds the condition — “that’s the million dollar question, and we don’t have a million dollar answer,” said Nass.'
Correlation does not necessarily reveal causation, and even when it does, it isn't always obvious in which direction the causation flows.
Posted by: Julia Belian | Aug 26, 2009 7:43:10 AM