Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Science of Multi-tasking

I think it's safe to say that we all find ourselves multi-tasking from time to time.  For example, I'm multi-tasking right now.  I'm writing this post and listening to a podcast at the same time.  So how good are humans at multi-tasking?  Unfortunately, not very good.  There are several studies showing that humans are not able to multi-task two or more tasks at the same time equally well.  I watched this very cool YouTube video from BrainCraft discussing this very topic and found myself nodding my head to much of what was shared.

BrainCraft - Multitasking

When multi-tasking we tend to switch back and forth between tasks.  Thus we are not really multi-tasking but multi-switching.  When multi-tasking we have a tendency to focus on one of the tasks and ignore the other.  For example, right now my focus is on writing this post.  I'm listening to a podcast at the same time, but not really paying attention to it.  If you asked me what was discussed in the podcast over the last 5 minutes, I could give you a general idea but not the specifics.

There are, however, people who can truly multi-task specific tasks, such as running and knitting at the same time.  Can these same people multi-task other tasks?  Hard to say.  There are people who can handle multi-tasking better than others, but those numbers are small.  If I'm remembering the number from the video correctly, it is only 2.5% of the population.

In conclusion, I suggest we all face the facts.  We can all multi-task, just not very well.  :-)

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