Before this week, multitasking was a skill I valued as resume worthy. Psychological research is proving me wrong, with evidence showing that media juggling is quite detrimental on our social life, education and daily attention spans. Is this incredible balancing act that I value as a talent too good to be true and is it actually slowing my day down?
The term multitask can be defined as (of a person) dealing “with more than once task at the same time”(Oxford dictionary, 2015). Advancements in technology and the synchronization of devices, allows individuals no matter the context they are in, to participate in the online multitasking. For example before work or university, I am at home looking at the TV and Laptop simultaneously. On the bus I have my smartphone and IPod and at university I have my laptop and smartphone. The majority of the time these tasks are not complimenting each other, I am looking, watching or listening to completely different things. Therefore I am switching my attention rapidly and undergoing multitasking.
Google undertook research into media multitasking and referred to this as in ‘simultaneous screening’ (Google Statistics, 2012). The company’s research found that “78% of simultaneous screen use was multitasking” (Google Statistics, 2012). Since writing the above paragraph, I have been to the beach, eaten lunch, undergone research for this piece and been on Instagram. The reason I am pointing this out is due to another contributing factor in regards to multitasking, that is attention. “Attention involves the allocation of cognitive resources to deal with multiple inputs at once” (Bowles, K, 2015). Multitasking whether it be online or offline, could be straining our cognitive attention capabilities. Such “cognitive overload” (Bowles, K 2015) could be doing more harm than good. Whilst we may be able to achieve multiple tasks at the same time, the value and effort put in to any one task may not be quality work.
Psychological research from 2014 is showing that splitting our attention through media multitasking is directly ‘resulting in failures of everyday attention, resulting in cognitive errors, mind wandering, attentional control and distractibility’ (Brandon, C.W. et.al. 2014). There is the potential for multiscreen use to damage our “cognitive control, academic performance and socioemotional functioning” (Winneke A, et.al 2015). Multiscreening contexts are here to stay, however it could be said that young adults should be educated on the negative impacts of multitasking on their wellbeing. Sometimes it is worth slowing down and putting effort in to the task ahead of you.
After briefly looking in to this large research area, I do agree with the research and find it surprisingly refreshing to focus on one medium at a time, ignoring additional screen noise. This has been a fantastic reminder for me. I am finishing this piece, concentrating on nothing else apart from my cup of tea. Focusing on just writing has made this blog piece a lot smoother and more so peaceful than usual.
Bowles, K 2015 ‘Week 7: Paying attention to attention’, University of Wollongong, Semester 2. Retrieved from < https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/490912/mod_resource/content/1/BCM240%202015%20week%207.pdf>
Google Statistics, 2012, ‘The new multi-screen world: Understanding Cross-platform consumer behaviour’. August 2012, U.S. Retrieved from, <https://ssl.gstatic.com/think/docs/the-new-multi-screen-world-study_research-studies.pdf>
Ralph, BW, Thomson, DR, Cheyne, JA, & Smilek, D 2014, ‘Media multitasking and failures of attention in everyday life’, Psychological Research, vol. 78, no. 5, pp. 661-669. Available from: 10.1007/s00426-013-0523-7. [20 September 2015].
Van Der Schuur A.W, Baumgartner E.S, Sumter R.S, Valkenburg, M.P, 2015, ‘The Consequences of Media Multitasking for youth: A review, Amsterdam School of Communication Research, Vol.53, pp.204-215, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2015. Retrieved from <http://ey9ff7jb6l.search.serialssolutions.com/?genre=article&issn=07475632&title=Computers%20in%20Human%20Behavior&volume=53&issue=&date=20151201&atitle=Literature%20Review%3A%20The%20consequences%20of%20media%20multitasking%20for%20youth%3A%20A%20review&spage=204&pages=204-215&sid=EBSCO:ScienceDirect&au=van%20der%20Schuur,%20Winneke%20A>