Multitasking Doesn’t Work (And Could Cause Brain Damage)
I’ve talked about multitasking before here on the blog. It’s something that has really affected my life. I used to think that it was a good thing to be able to do multiple things at once. I felt pride in being able to work on a post while carrying on a conversation in Gmail Chat and doing research for something else.
But at some point – I’m not really sure what set things off – I realized that I wasn’t really that good at multitasking. I figured it was just me, but then I started to pay attention to others that were trying to do too much all at once. They didn’t seem happy while doing it. And I noticed that for me (and probably for others) that when you try to do too many things at once that all of those things suffer.
It’s common sense now that I think about it. If I try to spin a basketball on my finger while writing a blog post I probably won’t do well at either. My mind is split a bit on each task instead of really focused on one or the other.
Now there’s a study highlighted on PSY Blog that found that not only does multitasking not really work, but it can be harmful to your brain.
Multitasking Is Bad For Your Brain
Here is an excerpt:
People who multitasked more across different media had lower gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC: indicated by white dots in the image above).
This part of the brain, which lies towards the front, is mostly involved in aspects of cognitive and emotional control: things like empathy, decision-making and how we process rewards.
When was the last time you checked the email on your phone while watching TV?
If you could see me through the computer right now you would see my hand raised. I do it all the time. Even after reading this post on PSY Blog I still do this. It’s like an addiction.
Media has really taken over our life. I know that I don’t really leave my iPhone too far behind. It’s always there to keep the information coming in. Check the email during the day. Check Twitter to see what’s going on with the people that share interested articles and posts.
It seems crazy that something like listening to the radio while playing a game on your phone could be damaging, but that’s what this preliminary study is finding. It could be that your brain is already conditioned this way and that’s what causes you to want to have multiple media items going at the same time.
I’m sure more studies will focus on different aspects of this in the future.
In the meantime, I’m going to work on putting the phone down while watching TV. And I’m going to focus on other areas of multitasking like doing one thing at a time while working and focusing on the person I’m having a conversation with instead of getting distracted by media or anything else.