From my favorite magazine, The Week:
Modern humans have embraced multitasking with all four limbs. We text while walking, chat on the phone while driving, check e-mail while writing the annual report. Psychology textbooks suggest that our brains can’t successfully process so much at once. “But if you walk around on the street, you see lots of people multitasking,” Stanford researcher Eyal Ophir tells BBCnews.com. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What is it that these multitaskers are good at that enable them to do this?’”
The surprising answer is nothing. Ophir and colleagues categorized subjects into two groups, high and low multitaskers, according to the amount of electronic information they typically consumed. Then they ran them through several experiments designed to test the skills that multi¬taskers ostensibly possess. To test their ability to ignore irrelevant information, for example, subjects were shown a screen with both red rectangles and blue rectangles; when subjects saw the screen a second time, they were asked whether any of the red rectangles had been rotated.
High multitaskers consistently scored much worse; they were less able to ignore distractions, had more fallible memories, and couldn’t switch to new tasks as readily. “The shocking discovery of this research” is that high multitaskers “are lousy at everything that’s necessary for multi¬tasking,” says co-author Clifford Nass. “They’re suckers for irrelevancy. Everything distracts them.” Left unclear is why chronic multitaskers fail. Are they naturally bad at focusing, so they multitask to compensate? Or does multitasking actively degrade their ability to concentrate? Either way, the lesson is the same: If you want to get more done, try doing less.
Aich! It’s what I’ve suspected all along.