Multitaskers Ain’t Good at It

In case you missed it, researchers at Stanford recently published a study about the abilities of heavy multitaskers. And they found that heavy multitaskers were less able to organize information, less able to ignore irrelevant information, less able to switch from one task to another. This is exactly the opposite of what the scientists expected.

Some key quotes:

“We kept looking for multitaskers’ advantages in this study. But we kept finding only disadvantages. We thought multitaskers were very much in control of information. It turns out, they were just getting it all confused.”
— Eyal Ophir, lead investigator.

”The huge finding is, the more media people use the worse they are at using any media. We were totally shocked.” “Multitaskers were just lousy at everything.”
— Clifford I. Nass, investigator.

Details are in these two New York Times articles:

Study Finds People Who Multitask Often Bad at It
The Mediocre Multitasker

It seems that we are drawn to newness and novelty like moths to a flame. No wonder people are texting at the wheel. Call it information addiction. Chemicals not needed.

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6 Comments on “Multitaskers Ain’t Good at It”

  1. Nate Orloff Says:

    I find that the best editors are the ones who can hyper-focus, often unintentionally. To them, there is nothing outside the computer screen and the keyboard might as well be an extension of your hands.

  2. Steve Says:

    Absolutely. It’s one reason that I avoid email while I work — which is getting harder and harder these days.

  3. Mark Raudonis Says:

    When this article came out, I printed a hundred copies and put it on the desks of all those young editors who think they can edit, IM, email, Facebook, Twitter, and talk on the phone at the same time!

    Most looked at me like I was a crazy old fart who just didn’t get it! (I may be an old fart, but I’m NOT crazy).

    Editing is hard. Doing it well is even harder. None of us have brains big enough to
    multitask and edit well. Period.

    And while I’m at it… put down that cell phone and drive, dammit!

    Mark

  4. Brian Says:

    But if I don’t do it at work, when will I ever read this blog! :)

  5. Steve Says:

    Good point! Just don’t drive while reading it!


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