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Published on 8/1/2020 additional information available

Is Multitasking Good?


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Who does not want to be efficient; to get more things done in a given amount of time.

The whole idea of the so called "open-plan offices" was that they were designed to encourage multitasking.  The assumption was that "collaboration' among individuals and teams would promote "innovation" and be more "nimble" and "intelligent."

But is that true - is multitasking better?

We all do some multitasking; people talking on their cell phone while driving, do homework while watching television, type on your laptop while listening to a lecture in college.

Organizational psychologists wanted to know whether multitasking would mean more work could get done more efficiently.

Multitasking sounds like a good idea.

But - what was found was that multitasking actually makes you LESS effective.  

A study at Stanford University found that regular multitasking makes it harder for people to focus on a single task, and "allows goal-irrelevant information to compete with goal-relevant information.

So - daily multitasking makes you

  • Less effective when multitasking,
  • Less effective when not multitasking
  • Less effective at prioritizing to achieve goals


A study from York University in the UK showed that when you are multitasking you literally reduce your intelligence as measured by IQ tests.  

Merely being near somebody who is multitasking drops your comprehension by 17 percent.  Just seeing someone else multitasking is distracting.

MRI studies of frequent multitaskers showed multitaskers "had smaller gray matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex" of the brain which "matched the observed decreased cognitive control performance."

Daily multitasking actually may do brain damage making people less intelligent.  

What Does It All Mean?

Our brains were made to do one thing at a time - to have focus on a single project.  When we were hunters we needed to focus on the hunt, and not worry about the kids at home, whether we closed the front door, etc.

We had to have focus in survive and our brains just do not work as well when trying to do more than one thing at a time.  With multitasking, we give attention to one thing, then stop paying attention to that and pay attention to something else, then stop paying attention to that and pay attention back to the first thing, etc.

This may have decidedly tragic effects when driving and talking on a cell phone - but it also seems to actually cause brain damage over the long term.

Something to think about - just do not think about other things at the same time!

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