Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Thoughts on Multitasking?

MULTITASKING & GENDER DIFFERENCES: http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/815.asp

  • There is speculation that women are more efficient at multitasking. Dr. Christina Williams, the chair of the Psychology Department at Duke University, has done studies with rats, where the male rats have exhibited more “tunnel vision” than female rats (Williams & Meck, 1990). Williams study discovered that female rats use multiple cues, including examining landmarks of the maze and geometry to navigate a maze, while male rats just used geometry. This implies that women use their minds to synthesize multiple cues from the environment, while men would rather use single cues.
  • There is a biological difference. According to MRIs performed, women have a larger corpus callossum (Halpern, 2000). The corpus collossum is the area of the brain that handles communication between the two hemispheres. It is responsible for synthesizing the information from the left and right side of the brain. In women, the corpus callosum is wider than that of men’s brains, which might enable the two sides to communicate better with each other. This is a theory as to why women might multitask more efficiently.
  • There are people opposed to the idea of women being better multitaskers. However, they do not make a case for men being superior with multitasking abilities. Instead, they claim that there is no significant difference between the genders with multitasking.
  • Dr. Marcel Just, Director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University agrees with Meyer. His studies on brain mapping, with participants between the ages of 18 and 32, show that women only score higher when asked to listen to two things at the same time (Just, 2001).

MULTITASKING LOWERS PRODUCTIVITY?: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-myth-of-multitasking

  • When we talk about multitasking, we are really talking about attention: the art of paying attention, the ability to shift our attention, and, more broadly, to exercise judgment about what objects are worthy of our attention. People who have achieved great things often credit for their success a finely honed skill for paying attention.
  • In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” The psychologist who led the study called this new “infomania” a serious threat to workplace productivity.
  • Discussing multitasking with the New York Times in 2007, Jonathan B. Spira, an analyst at the business research firm Basex, estimated that extreme multitasking—information overload—costs the U.S. economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity.
  • One study by researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from interruptions such as phone calls or answering e-mail and return to their original task.
  • Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Massachusetts-based psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and has written a book with the self-explanatory title CrazyBusy, has been offering therapies to combat extreme multitasking for years; in his book he calls multitasking a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” In a 2005 article, he described a new condition, “Attention Deficit Trait,” which he claims is rampant in the business world. ADT is “purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live,” writes Hallowell, and its hallmark symptoms mimic those of ADD. “Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points,” Hallowell argues, and this challenge “can be controlled only by creatively engineering one’s environment and one’s emotional and physical health.” Limiting multitasking is essential.

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