Does Multitasking Hurt Your Brain?

"Attention, multitaskers (if you can pay attention, that is): Your brain may be in trouble" writes Adam Gorlick of the Stanford Report. According to communication professor Clifford Nass, multitaskers are "suckers for irrelevancy." That's the claim that Stanford researchers are investigating in a recent study that compares media multitaskers with... um... non... media... multitaskers. Whatever that means. Although this study is riddled with confounding variables, such as inherent personality traits, the basic question behind it is sound, which is whether you really multitask, or you just spend less time doing any one thing. The early assumption was that people who multitask must have extraordinary skills in concentration, working efficiently in different capacities and compartmentalizing tasks in their brains. The research suggests that the opposite may be true, and that multitaskers don't have mental abilities superior to those of non... multi... yah... hopefully by now you're asking yourself the same question I am, which is "What is the definition of media multitasking, and what arbitrary criteria have been established for who's capable of multitasking, or who's good at it?" It's a safe bet that the 100 people in the sample self-identified whether they were either frequent multitaskers or not.

I'm going to conduct my own observational experiment right here. I don't have scientific equipment flashing obnoxious visual cues for you, and your answers will be based on real-world experiences, and I contend that it is because of those reasons (and not despite) that my methods are no less valid than those of the Stanford study. Will you help me with it? I need 100 people to report in the comments 1) how you "multitask" and what that means to you, and 2) whether you find that it increases or decreases your mental capacity.


Alena said...

To start, in my opinion there is no such thing as not multi-tasking. I'm multi-tasking right now as I write this post, because I am thinking, breathing, sitting up right, and typing my response. In essence, there is no way to avoid multi-tasking, so how could it effect or not effect my memory or concentration. I will say that I can be distracted when I'm using media because I'm choosing to avoid something that may or may not be more important, but I don't think writing this comment and llistening to music would hurt my memory or concentration. In that example, music and writing are seperate in my brain, so in that example, doing both those tasks at the same time might help my brain more then hurt it because I'm using both hemispheres rather than just one. I'm curious to find out what other people think.

lenagrace said...

Not multi-tasking takes a great deal of meditative concentration. Only great lamas and buddhas are up to it. I find that multi-tasking sublimates my distractedness. Often the only I can get anything done is if I let my mind wander to other useful tasks. Sometimes it's called "productive procrastination". Sometimes it's called "finally getting around to doing my dishes right when I'm supposed to be studying for a final". Either way, it's inevitable for the common person.

The Real Steve said...

:D Namaste.