Thursday, October 15, 2009

Texting, surfing, studying...

I've done a number of posts on the evils of multitasking (for example here and here, or enter multitasking in the search box in the left column of this blog), and thus was struck by a number of salient points in an article by Perri Klass. Here are some clips:
...A recent and much-discussed study showed decreased productivity in adults who were don’t really multitask, you just think you do; the brain can’t process two high-level cognitive things. What you are actually oscillating between the two...So are teenagers any better at oscillating?...It may be that multitasking is more of a problem for us old brains...parents are digital immigrants...children are digital natives...they really have come of age with these technologies.

The literature looking at media and its impact on attentional skills is just in its infancy...We don’t really know what they pay attention to, what they don’t. We don’t know how it impacts their school performance, whether it impacts their school performance.
One possibility is that performing a task while allowing distractions lengthens the amount of time that can be spent on the task, more than compensating for a decrease in efficiency.


  1. I found that bit about watching a movie while studying interesting, as in interesting/weird. It's partly that I don't find most movies very interesting anyway, I tend to loose interest in the characters and spend my time meta-viewing the art direction, cinematography, scripting decisions, etc. Should I ever make it to Hell I expect to find that the walls are actually large screens with recent Hollywood output running continuously.

    But what I really can't understand is that you could, or even would want to, watch a movie without giving it most of your attention. Maybe this is more a case of being a media immigrant that a digital immigrant: I grew up in a house where we watched only a little TV, and didn't have the TV on unless we actually wanted to watch something.

  2. The article questions why youth seems to have an advantage over us older adults when it comes to oscillating between cognitive tasks... it would be my guess that if with each new experience we are subjected to, a neural bud is generated to accomodate the experience... generation of neural buds would be much more rapid in the youth than with older adults who generate new cell growth more slowly.

    But the argument still ensues on whether or not neural regeneration occurs at all... but I believe we do. :-)