You Lose A Frightening Number Of IQ Points By Multitasking

texting girls

Photo: Flickr/Simon Dogett

Here, a few vivid comparisons that bring home the fact that multitasking makes you dumber.On his always-interesting blog, Eric Barker quotes a book called “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long,” by David Rock:

“A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of 10 points on an IQ test. It was five points for women, and fifteen points for men. This effect is similar to missing a night’s sleep. For men, it’s around three times more than the effect of smoking cannabis.

While this fact might make an interesting dinner party topic, it’s really not that amusing that one of the most common ‘productivity tools’ can make one as dumb as a stoner.

The idea that conscious processes need to be done one at a time has been studied in hundreds of experiments since the 1980s. For example, the scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an MBA to that of an eight-year-old.

It’s a phenomenon called dual-task interference. In one experiment, Pashler had volunteers press one of two keys on a pad in response to whether a light flashed on the left or right side of a window. One group only did this task over and over. Another group had to define the colour of an object at the same time, choosing from among three colours. These are simple variables: left or right, and only three colours. Yet doing two tasks took twice as long, leading to no time saving. This finding held up whether the experiment involved sight or sound, and no matter how much participants practiced.

The lesson is clear: if accuracy is important, don’t divide your attention.”

Read more here.

I think most of us know this is true, and yet we continue to try to get away with doing more than one thing at once. It reminds me of the old saying: “If you haven’t got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?”

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