Multitasking, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Multitasking refers to the performance of multiple tasks at one time (Merriam-Webster). Multitasking is not a new phenomenon [1] but the increasingly dominant role of technology in our lives has made it much more obvious than ever before. Thus, it is not surprising that the issue of multitasking has generated interest in the scientific community so that multitasking myths could be separated from facts and a more objective debate on the issue is made possible.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has termed the media-hungry generation, Generation M and the foundation discovered through a survey of Americans ages 8 to 18 in 2005 that kids were spending the same amount of time using electronic media but they were packing more media consumption into the same time, i.e. 8.5 hours worth of media consumption into 6 hours a day. This was possible because kids were listening to iTunes, watching a DVD, and messaging friends at the same time. Jordan Grafman, Chief of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), predicts that kids who multi-task do not do well in the long run. Decades of research proves that an attempt to do more tasks at one time results in a declining quality of output and depth of thought (Wallis, 2006). In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, psychologists Anthony Wagner and Eyal Ophir surveyed 262 students on their media consumption habits and discovered that in every single test, students with lower levels of multitasking performed the best (Keim, 2009).

According to neuroscientist Earl Miller, human brain is good at deluding itself which is why we often overestimate our ability to multitask. A study done at the University of Michigan with MRI scanner showed that when a subject was asked to switch to another task, his brain paused before attempting to collect all the information in order to switch to the other task. It happened again as the subject switched back to the initial task (Hamilton, 2008).

Scientists have also found little evidence that either men or women are better at multitasking. The myth has been due to the fact that women are happier to try doing several things at once (Naish, 2009). Multitasking skills are believed to decline with age and the biggest decline occurs between ages 20 and 30. But scientists have found some evidence that multitasking ability can be improved with practice and experiments to improve multitasking skills in seniors through video games have been encouraging (Silverman, 2012).

There are strategies that can be adopted to improve multitasking skills. One strategy is to attempt multitasking with simple tasks. Another strategy is to meditate because research shows that meditation makes brains more efficient at paying attention (Naish, 2009). An alternative may be to attempt tasks in an environment with minimum or no distraction which may explain why it is often advised to keep smart phones off during family time.

References

Hamilton, J. (2008, October 2). Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again. Retrieved April 1, 2012, from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794

Keim, B. (2009, August 24). Multitasking Muddles Brains, Even When the Computer Is Off. Retrieved April 1, 2012, from Wired: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/multitasking/

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). multitasking. Retrieved April 1, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/multitasking?show=0&t=1311667375

Naish, J. (2009, August 11). Is multi-tasking bad for your brain? Experts reveal the hidden perils of juggling too many jobs. Retrieved April 1, 2012, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1205669/Is-multi-tasking-bad-brain-Experts-reveal-hidden-perils-juggling-jobs.html

Silverman, R. E. (2012, March 26). Can Multitasking Be Improved? Retrieved April 1, 2012, from http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2012/03/26/can-multitasking-be-improved/

Wallis, C. (2006, March 27). genM: The Multitasking Generations. Retrieved April 1, 2012, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1174696,00.html

[1] Classical examples of multi-tasking include listening to radios while driving and preparing dinner and doing other household chores at the same time.

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