Stanford study: Media multitaskers pay mental price
Stanford University just published the findings of a study that showed that Media multitaskers pay [a] mental price. It appears to be a considerable price actually, as those who find it hard to focus on a small number of channels or switch off entirely while working in one area, end up being “suckers for irrelevancy”. But does it affect all multitaskers equally? A sample of 100 students is not representative, nevertheless, it would be interesting to know what makes some people multitask to such high degree. How do they become attracted to distraction in the first place? On the other hand, equally interesting is to see that low multitaskers are actually doing really well – so is it all a question of getting the balance right between stimulation and overload?
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, a group of Stanford researchers has found.
High-tech 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 assignments.
But after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized those heavy media multitaskers are paying a big mental price.
“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass, 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.”
Social 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 attention to.
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