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Multitasking and Study Efficiency
Are you a multitasker?
When you study, for example, do you have other things vying for your attention? You know the scene, you are reading your assignment but the television is turned on, you are checking your e-mail, and you are kind of holding a conversation with your friends nearby. Multitasking is the engagement with multiple streams of information that are unrelated.
So, does multitasking hurt your study efficiency? A recent study at Stanford says it does. The researchers concluded that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time. In other words media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.
The research is clear, if
you want to boost your study effectiveness stop multitasking.
Below Adam Gorlick
highlights the entire Stanford Mulitasking Study:
multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows
you can talk on the phone, send an instant message and read your e-mail
all at once? Stanford researchers say even trying may impair your
multitaskers (if you can pay attention, that is): Your brain may be in
who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic
information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from
one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a
time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.
jugglers are everywhere keeping up several e-mail and instant
message conversations at once, text messaging while watching television
and jumping from one website to another while plowing through homework
after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the
researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big
suckers for irrelevancy," said
Professor , one of the researchers whose findings are published in
the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Everything distracts them."
scientists have long assumed that it's impossible to process more than
one string of information at a time. The brain just can't do it. But
many researchers have guessed that people who appear to multitask must
have superb control over what they think about and what they pay
there a gift?
each of their tests, the researchers split their subjects into two
groups: those who regularly do a lot of media multitasking and those who
one experiment, the groups were shown sets of two red rectangles alone
or surrounded by two, four or six blue rectangles. Each configuration
was flashed twice, and the participants had to determine whether the two
red rectangles in the second frame were in a different position than in
the first frame.
were told to ignore the blue rectangles, and the low multitaskers had no
problem doing that. But the high multitaskers were constantly distracted
by the irrelevant blue images. Their performance was horrible.
second test proved that theory wrong. After being shown sequences of
alphabetical letters, the high multitaskers did a lousy job at
remembering when a letter was making a repeat appearance.
low multitaskers did great," Ophir said. "The high
multitaskers were doing worse and worse the further they went along
because they kept seeing more letters and had difficulty keeping them
sorted in their brains."
but not yet stumped on why the heavy multitaskers weren't performing
well, the researchers conducted a third test. If the heavy multitaskers
couldn't filter out irrelevant information or organize their memories,
perhaps they excelled at switching from one thing to another faster and
better than anyone else.
again, the study found.
test subjects were shown images of letters and numbers at the same time
and instructed what to focus on. When they were told to pay attention to
numbers, they had to determine if the digits were even or odd. When told
to concentrate on letters, they had to say whether they were vowels or
the heavy multitaskers underperformed the light multitaskers.
couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing," Ophir
said. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the
information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their
researchers are still studying whether chronic media multitaskers are
born with an inability to concentrate or are damaging their cognitive
control by willingly taking in so much at once. But they're convinced
the minds of multitaskers are not working as well as they could.
they're in situations where there are multiple sources of information
coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they're not
able to filter out what's not relevant to their current goal," said
Wagner, an associate professor of .
"That failure to filter means they're slowed down by that
maybe it's time to stop e-mailing if you're following the game on TV,
and rethink singing along with the radio if you're reading the latest
news online. By doing less, you might accomplish more.