Sunday, November 24, 2019
Jim and I have been talking a lot about legal educational neuromyths on this blog recently. Here is the biggest one: the effectiveness of multitasking.
The reason multitasking is ineffective is that working memory is limited, and, consequently, humans must focus their attention on the main task. Taking your attention away from the main task hurts your ability to do the main task, and the attention you devote to other tasks is superficial.
Multitasking can hurt your learning. As one author (here) has recently declared, ""You may have heard that multitasking is bad for you, but studies show that it kills your performance and may even damage your brain. Every time you multitask you aren't just harming your performance in the moment; you may very well be damaging an area of your brain that's critical to your future success at work."
The author continued:
"You may have heard that multitasking is bad for you, but studies show that it kills your performance and may even damage your brain. Every time you multitask you aren't just harming your performance in the moment; you may very well be damaging an area of your brain that's critical to your future success at work.
Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.
They found that heavy multitaskers — those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance — were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.
Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.
Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they'd expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night.
It was long believed that cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but new research suggests otherwise."
Multitasking in meetings and other social settings indicates low Self- and Social Awareness, two emotional intelligence (EQ) skills that are critical to success at work."
The problems with multitasking are very relevant for legal education. If a student doesn't devote her full attention to a class, she gets very little out of the class. Learning is an active activity; a student cannot passively absorb a class with the mind being a sponge. Similarly, when studying a student needs to devote his entire attention to the studying. No texting or checking your cellphone every minute. In fact, just listening to music hurts a students' ability to learn. I love to listen to classical music, but I don't do so when I am working because it affects my ability to concentrate.
In sum, students would be much better learners, and get better grades, if they stopped multitasking.