How the Brain Works: Multitasking and Multitaskers- More Means Less

Recent studies show that heavy multitaskers perform below average

By Shlomo Breznitz, Founder and Chief Scientist, CogniFit , CogniFit |  Tech & society, bain, brain fitness

Today it seems to be the norm to be multi tasking -- doing more than one thing at a time. We get more and more information from different sources, which we are expected to process and handle.

Multitasking -- no matter what form it takes -- means that our brains must use their “executive control function” which is associated with the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex.

Our brain must prioritize and then allocate cognitive resources to all the information flowing into our brains. The assumption would be that the more we practice these skills, the better we would be at them.

Unfortunately, for some people, this is not true and in fact, a study conducted at Stanford University has found just the opposite, that the people who multitask the most are the ones who are the worst at multitasking!

First the study identified who the “heavy” multitaskers were- and it was decided that those people who used four media items at the same time were the “heavies” and those using an average of 1.5 were the “light” multitaskers.

The study tested different cognitive abilities: the ability to ignore irrelevant information; the ability to organize information; memory and the ability to switch from one task to another.

In each of these abilities, the “heavy” multitaskers performed at a much poorer level than the “light” multitaskers.

The difference might lie in the high multitaskers being information “explorers,” people, who want more and more information, while the “light” multitaskers were information “exploiters,” who prefer to think about the information they already have.

Recent events have put multitasking in the spotlight as the controversy builds around allowing or not allowing cell phone use while driving. More and more states are considering banning cell phone use while driving as the evidence pours in showing that cell phone use while driving is a leading cause of accidents today. People can’t seem to disconnect themselves from their information flow, even when it means their personal safety and their families’ personal safety is at stake.

For more information and resources on how the brain works turn to the CogniFit blog.

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