September 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

Do you multi task?  If yes you should definitely read this. Stanford researchers have proved that multi-tasking more than often distracts your mind than helping it. I could remember my mom telling me “Do one thing at the time; What’s the hurry?”. All these years, I have been thinking, its genius to be able to do so many things at the same time. But with research findings not in my side, may be its time to a take serious look.


Three different tests were conducted on a set of chronic multi-taskers and another set of light multi-taskers to decide on the filtering ability, short term memory, ability to control their thoughts.

In one experiment, a set of rectangles(red and blue interspersed) were shown twice and the group of participants should identify if the orientation of red ones had changed from the 1st time. The light multi-taskers were comfortably able to divert their thoughts from blue rectangles but the chronic MT’s were distracted by them.
In another one, participants were shown images of alphabets and numbers. In one case, they should focus on alphabets identifying vowels, consonants and in the 2nd case ignoring numbers, participants should say odd or even. Again the chronic multi-taskers were not able to focus on one thing.

Ophir says “Light multi taskers have a greater tendency for top-down attentional control, and thus they may find it easier to attentionally focus on a single task in the face of distractions”. Multi-taskers try to acquire as much information as possible from every source in front of them there by working on something with another secondary thought running in the mind.

All these R & D, blah blah is good,but, personally I do not think the situation is going to get any simpler. Social networks, YouTube, Google, Twitter, News feeds along with all sms and chatting are going to rule our lives. Added to that is Google Wave which is going to be a real time update, synchronization and  integration of all the above said things, there is going to be little possibility for something called Attention span in life.

Instead of diverting thoughts every 3 minutes throughout the day (on an average), do it for every 30 minutes or 1 hour. Every now and then cut yourself off from all the frenzy, spend a day or two with no network connection atleast. Or as we all know our brain, could rewire itself over a period of time, to skillfully handle all threads of thought.

Arun Vallappan


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