Are you a multi-tasker?

Posted: August 16, 2010 in CAE, CPE

How do you see yourself? Do you think you’re capable of doing lots of things at the same time as well as if you were focussing on only one thing, or do you feel you can’t do things as well when you do two, three, or four different things at the same time? How do you think you’d react if you had to spend 5 days away from any sort of technological gadget – cell phones, radio, computers, TV, and what have you? Do you think this would be something that would ‘re-calibrate’ your brain and help you learn better – and also sharpen your memory – or do you think that your brain adapts to multi-tasking and doing a whole bunch of things at one?

All of these questions have been debated over an article at the NY Times, but before I give you the link, I’ll paste some passages to get you thinking.

It was a primitive trip with a sophisticated goal: to understand how heavy use of digital devices and other technology changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.

on a day-to-day basis, too much digital stimulation can “take people who would be functioning O.K. and put them in a range where they’re not psychologically healthy.”

The five scientists on the trip can be loosely divided into two groups: the believers and the skeptics.

technology has redefined the notion of what is “urgent.” How soon do people need to get information and respond to it?

learning centers in the brain become taxed when asked to process information, even during the relatively passive experience of taking in an urban setting. By extension, some scientists believe heavy multitasking fatigues the brain, draining it of the ability to focus.

Why don’t brains adapt to the heavy stimulation, turning us into ever-stronger multitaskers?

Behavioral studies have shown that performance suffers when people multitask.

even the more skeptical of the scientists say something is happening to their brains that reinforces their scientific discussions — something that could be important to helping people cope in a world of constant electronic noise.

“If we can find out that people are walking around fatigued and not realizing their cognitive potential,” Mr. Braver says, then pauses and adds: “What can we do to get us back to our full potential?”

Mr. Atchley says he can see new ways to understand why teenagers decide to text even in dangerous situations, like driving. Perhaps the addictiveness of digital stimulation leads to poor decision-making.

So, what are your thoughts on the extracts you can see above? If you’d like to read the whole article first, click here.

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