Research Shows Multitasking Makes you Dumb

I think I can now shed a little light on part of a quote from this previous post (from a Time Magazine article): …students remember just 20% of the content of class lectures a week later… It seems that research has revealed that multitasking makes you dumb. Once you have read the quotes below, you […]

I think I can now shed a little light on part of a quote from this previous post (from a Time Magazine article):

…students remember just 20% of the content of class lectures a week later…

It seems that research has revealed that multitasking makes you dumb. Once you have read the quotes below, you might wonder, as I do, why educational institutions, especially Universities, expect you to simultaneously: listen to the lecturer, comprehend what they are saying, compile it into an abbreviated form, and write that in your notes. If that isn’t multitasking, I don’t know what is.

The quote comes by way of SDRNews, inspired by the following summary from Slashdot of an article in The Atlantic:

…in which Walter Kirn talks about the scientific results that support his claim and his own experiences with multitasking: that it destroys our ability to focus.

“Multitasking messes with the brain in several ways. At the most basic level, the mental balancing acts that it requires — the constant switching and pivoting — energize regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously appear to shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning. We concentrate on the act of concentration at the expense of whatever it is that we’re supposed to be concentrating on… studies find that multitasking boosts the level of stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and wears down our systems through biochemical friction, prematurely aging us. In the short term, the confusion, fatigue, and chaos merely hamper our ability to focus and analyze, but in the long term, they may cause it to atrophy.”

Interestingly, a couple of years earlier, Digg also mentioned coverage in ArsTechnica of a Time Magazine cover story:

…entitled “Too Wired For Their Own Good?”, condemns the youth of the nation as gadget-obsessed, perennially multitasking, social failures who can’t really get into anything important or even relax. The article brings up example upon example of dysfunctional teenagers and their equally disjointed families.

It is good to see scientific evidence can now substantiate and explain this. Who knows – given that the research was released two years after the Time article, it may have even been in response to it.

Author: EricWoods

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6 comments until now

  • That’s why “smart” people with ADD do so well in school. Their inability to multitask allows them to hyperfocus and subsequently really learn and enjoy what they are studying.

    Disclaimers :) – Here ADD means Attention Deficit Disorder WITHOUT hyperactivity. And “smart” was only used to play off the “dumb” in the article title, it’s debatable. It would be better to say “interested students”.

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