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The Myth of Multitasking: Audio


Are you a multitasker? Do you think you’re more productive because of your ability to focus on more than one thing at a time? Or do you find yourself trying to get things done and ultimately getting nothing done because of your habit of multitasking?

Listen to this audio clip (or read the transcript) discussing the myth of multitasking, from NPR (National Public Radio). Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University, says today’s nonstop multitasking actually wastes more time than it saves, and says it may be having a negative effect on our concentration and creativity as well.

Some key points:

“…The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits.”

“…[Multitaskers] said, ‘look, when I really have to concentrate, I turn off everything and I am laser-focused.’ And unfortunately, they’ve developed habits of mind that make it impossible for them to be laser-focused … They just can’t keep on task.”

“…we all, of course, are breathing while we’re eating while we’re doing other things. But when it comes to media or our prefrontal cortex, the thinking part of our brain, yes, we’re basically switching back and forth [rather than truly focusing on two or more separate tasks effectively]”

“…[in regards to ADD] pretty much everyone has the same amount of attention to allocate. It’s where we allocate it. And what people with attention deficit do is they spread their attention over what we would call an inappropriately large span of stimuli, whereas non-attention-deficit people focus. That’s exactly what multiple media and multitasking train you to do, spread your attention over a very large [area].”

“The penetration of media into younger and younger age groups without any attempt to train them how to manage this stuff is really threatening.”

“Our brains are built to receive many stimuli at one time, but they’re related stimuli. The problem with multitasking is not that we’re writing a report of Abraham Lincoln and hear, see pictures of Abraham Lincoln and read words of Abraham Lincoln and see photos of Abraham…The problem is we’re doing a report on Abraham Lincoln and tweeting about last night and watching a YouTube video about cats playing the piano, et cetera. That’s where the detriment comes in. It’s extremely healthy for your brain to do integrative things. It’s extremely destructive for your brain to do non-integrative things.”

Read more on multitasking and increasing your productivity, click here.

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