One thing at a time!

One thing at a time!

I know it’s popular to think that you are multi-tasking, but the research is clear that people actually can’t multi-task, with one specific exception.

Research shows that people can attend to only one cognitive task at a time. You can only actually be thinking about one thing at a time. So you can be talking to your friend while trying to calculate a discount while shopping, or you can be playing chess while watching a TV show.

This is what is known as distraction.

To some extent, the researchers accept that there is an exception. Your brain obviously does a lot of things at one time on a neuronic and anatomical level but in our everyday consciousness it is less impressive. Perhaps you can walk or drive (or do something else which is almost second nature and doesn’t require much conscious effort) while talking or texting. However, even this often leads to distraction. That’s why we have laws against texting and driving!

A study at Stanford University demonstrated that multi-tasking doesn’t work. Clifford Nass’s study (published in August of 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), found that when people are asked to deal with multiple streams of information they can’t pay attention to them, can’t remember as well, and don’t switch as well as they would have thought.

So what’s the takeaway? One thing at a time!

For more information on the Stanford study: Stanford Study on Multi-Tasking

On the clown and unicycle research: Ira E. Hyman Jr *, S. Matthew Boss, Breanne M. Wise, Kira E. McKenzie, Jenna M. . “Did you see the unicycling clown? Inattentional blindness while walking and talking on a cell phone”. Applied Cognitive Psychology, December, 2009.

Article published on Business Insider

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