Think You’re Good at Multitasking? Think Again.


We all do it -- eat while we're on the phone, text while we're walking, check emails while watching TV. Our society is one chock-full of multitaskers. And that's not a good thing!

Studies show that those who consider themselves the best at doing multiple things at once may be the most dangerous multitaskers.

The most recent of these studies, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah and published in PLOS One, found that people who consider themselves great multi-taskers are often very wrong.

Photo Credit: Jason Weave
Photo Credit: Jason Weaver

Always Doing Something

Using more than 300 undergraduate college students between the ages of 18 and 44, researchers asked each participant to rank themselves on their ability to multitask, with 80 percent of respondents claiming to be above average. Among the self-described examples of multitasking was texting while driving and talking on one’s cell phone while driving.

The students were then given personality tests to measure their general impulsiveness, sensation seeking, and boredom susceptibility as measured by the Barratt Impulsivity Scale and the Sensation Seeking Scale.

Then students were tested on their ability to multitask through the administering of a skill test which essentially gave the participants a string of letters to remember while solving math problems.

Did They Live Up to Expectations?

The study found that the students that were most impulsive, easily distracted, adventure-seeking and the biggest risk takers were also the most frequent reporters of multitasking in real life.

The study also concluded, however, that these individuals consistently self-reported being excellent or better at multitasking, however proved to be the least efficient and effective at the tasks given.

Stop Multitasking

Past studies have hinted that multitasking may be a dangerous problem, with issues ranging from increased instances of attention deficit disorder (ADD) to a greater risk of automobile-related accidents as a result of texting/talking on the phone while driving. (Did you know that the National Safety Council estimates that 24% of all car accidents and deaths are a result of distracted drivers?).

Use this information to act wisely. For example, if you see a driver talking on their cell phone while operating a vehicle, change lanes – seriously. Limit your children’s use of electronics and encourage high-level thinking and games/activities that encourage concentration and dedication to one activity at a time.

And most of all – tune in. You’ll do a better job at work, be a better conversationalist and be more self-aware if you aren’t always trying to juggle multiple things at once.

In this day in age, multitasking is often unavoidable, but there are steps a person can take to assure that their entire life isn’t always a circus act.

By: Jennifer Wolfe

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