Human multitasking

Human multitasking

Human multi-tasking or multitasking is the performance by an individual of appearing to handle more than one task at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking. An example of multitasking is listening to a radio interview while typing an email. Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.

Research on human multitasking

Since the 1990s, experimental psychologists have started experiments on the nature and limits of human multitasking. It has been proven multitasking is not as workable as concentrated times. In general, these studies have disclosed that people show severe interference when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time, if both tasks require selecting and producing action (e.g., Gladstones, Regan, & Lee, 1989; Pashler, 1994). Many researchers believe that action planning represents a "bottleneck", which the human brain can only perform one task at a time.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans have revealed that superior multitasking performance is correlated with higher basal ganglia, anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex, and parietal cortex activity. [Leber AB et al. (2008). [;0805423105v1 Neural predictors of moment-to-moment fluctuations in cognitive flexibility] . "Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences".]

Continuous partial attention

Author Paul Johnson describes one kind of multitasking: “It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish."Fact|date=September 2007 Multimedia pioneer Linda Stone coined the phrase "continuous partial attention" for this kind of processing. [ Continuous Partial Attention] Continuous partial attention is multitasking where things do not get studied in depth.

Popular commentary on practical multitasking

Multitasking has been criticized as a hindrance to completing tasks or feeling happiness. Timothy Ferriss argues that one should rarely multitask and should instead devote full attention to completing a very small set of defined goals. [cite book |last=Ferriss |first=Timothy |title=The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich |publisher=Crown Publishing Group |date=2007 |isbn=9780307353139 ] Barry Schwartz has noted that, given the media-rich landscape of the Internet era, it is tempting to get into a habit of dwelling in a constant sea of information with too many choices, which has been noted to have a negative effect on human happiness [Cite book |last=Schwartz |first=Barry |authorlink=Barry Schwartz |title=The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less |publisher=Ecco |date=2004 |isbn=0060005696] .

Several studies have shown, that females are better than males at multitasking. [ [ Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget | Science Blog ] ]

ee also

* Absent-mindedness
* Human reliability
* Pareto Principle
* Parkinson's Law
* Time management


* Gladstones, W. H., Regan, M. A., and Lee, R. B. (1989). Division of attention: The single-channel hypothesis revisited. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Experimental Psychology, 41(A), 1-17.
* Pashler, H. (1994). Dual-task interference in simple tasks: Data and theory. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 220-244. []
* Kirn, Walter (2007). The autumn of the multitaskers. The Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 2007 []

Further reading

* Ferris, Tim (2006.) "The 4-Hour Workweek". Crown Publishing

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