Society tries to keep up with the digital age as it keeps growing. Many people get through the day by multitasking from flipping through multiple screens or by talking on the phone, texting, surfing the web, and probably talking to someone right in front of them. Multitasking is the engaging in more than one activity at the same time or serially, switching one’s attention back and forth from one activity to another. It affects certain parts of the brain, as well as daily life. The difference between multitasking before the digital age is that there was not any technology the brain had to keep up with. It is hard not to get lost in the digital world, but people should stick to one task, instead of multitasking because of the effects it has on the brain as well as performance.
Computers and the digital age has come very far, and there is a difference between multitasking back in the day and now. The purpose of multitasking was to support multiple users on just one computer and now it’s transformed to multitasking multiple things with one person. It’s not just about people multitasking, but the ability for computers to do so. J.C.R. Licklider and Engelbart had proposed that computers would serve as a tool human, and they changed what computers would come to be. They explained how computers shouldn’t be independently intelligent, but used as a tool that works with the human brain. Licklider called that concept “man-computer symbiosis.” Also, the brain doesn’t do well trying to multitask and paying active attention to more than one thing as once. It’s easy to get distracted, but our computers distract us and try to have our brains to process so much information all at the same time.
Excessive multitasking is more than just switching between a couple of tasks, but between many tasks. It can lead to psychological disorders. The brain is very complicated, but it can only deal with a limited number of things. People forget that the brain has a limited attention span and capacity. Most people do not know about the brain; so I am going to break some things down. The central nervous system is made of white matter and grey matter. Grey matter is mainly composed of neuronal cell bodies and unmyelinated axons. The axons processes that extend from neuronal cell bodies and carrying signals between the bodies. The grey matter serves to process information in the brain. Also, the grey matter is where the brain is involved in muscle control, sensory perceptions, such as hearing, memory, emotions, and speech.Research shows that people that used several types of technology at the same time have less grey matter in the brain and shrinks your brain, which can damage your career.
Every career is very demanding, but that doesn’t mean your brain can be at two places at once, which leads from one health problem to another. Multitasking leads to stress, which leads to many other health problems like sleeping problems, and chronic work-related stress can lead to heart disease. Also, switching tasks generates pulses of stress hormones, which hurts memory. Strayer and Jason also demonstrate that people who multitask very often had a lower memory capacity. All the stress from multitasking affects your attitude and causes serious anxiety disorders from switching between devices or tabs. Neuroscientists say there is a harmful impact from technology, which always refers back to multitasking, because we are trying to do so much throughout the whole day.
Multitasking for adults and teenagers is different with the digital age. The new technology/information age has the brain deal with new challenges like how it will handle the new issues, technology, the sudden changes around you.Teenagers in the 21st century grew up with technology. But, the brains of teenagers, whom are most addicted to multitasking, are still developing and are thus vulnerable to any ill effects. Also, studies show multitasking spreads attention thin and involves very different mental patterns than single-task focus. Priti Shah, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan, explains that in teens, the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s region vital to controlling thoughts, resisting impulses, and concentrating attention) is still in development. The brain is dividing attention into many small slices has significant implications for the way teens learn, reason, socialize, do creative work and understand the world.
Larry Rosen, found 13-18 year old use more than six types of media all the time when they are out of school. Even in school, students use technology the whole day from one social media site to another or just trying to get homework done then trying to multitask and surf the web. In 2010, a survey was taken on what teens are doing on the computer when they’re doing their homework, and two-thirds of the time it’s doing everything but homework.It has led to students only paying partial attention to everything.
The answer is no, nobody can be in two places at once and neither can the brain. Studies have shown that your brain can’t be in two places at once, because the brain can’t process two tasks at the same time in an efficient way. Computers being able to have split screens as well as tablets, which makes the brain pay attention to half of each task. We think our brains are like our phones and computers where it can do so much at once, but that is impossible. Have you ever watched a movie/show where a business worker is talking to a client, talking on the phone, and using the computer? If you haven’t, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a great example. Research shows that one of those tasks will not get done properly.
People usually don’t think about texting and talking to someone as multitasking, but it is. Since your brain can’t be in two places at once, you forget what that person said, don’t hear them, or mess up the text. The brain’s ability affects the attention between stimuli and trying to maintain that single focus.
There has been a study on how there are more chances of an accident while using your cellphone to text or surfing the web and driving than being intoxicated. Your brain can’t focus on the cellphone AND driving.
Since the brain can’t be like our phones and computers, when we multitask, it affects our performance. When you are multitasking between tabs on your computer, or just between your digital devices, you’re losing at least 40% of your productivity. Productivity is the quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services. Everyone finds himself or herself trying to multitask and thinking they are getting so much work done, but in reality you are being unproductive.
When we have our phone beside us and it vibrates; now the brain is trying to focus on the computer and whatever is being on the cellphone. Studies have shown that people that frequently multitask had reduced the ability of mental organization and had more difficulty switching between tasks.
There has been MRI studies about the inefficiencies of multitasking, which goes back to the prefrontal cortex, which slows the brain’s ability to process and prioritize information. The 40% of your productivity that you lose costs might cost your job or business too. The business planning group has found that trying to do so many things at once costs the economy about $450 billion annually. Now imagine people sticking to one task at a time. Instead of losing the $450 billion, it could go to workers and hiring new employees.
The brain’s ability affects the attention between stimuli, tasks, and maintaining that single focus. There have been studies involving neuroimaging showing how many people who multitask don’t get much accomplished. The brain has a couple of networks and the orienting network is not the only brain network that is multitasking, but the alerting network of your brain carries out the obtaining and maintaining part too.
Not to mention when we have our phone beside us as well and it buzzes, so now the brain is trying to focus on the computer and whatever is being on the cellphone. Studies have shown that people that frequently multitask had reduced the ability of mental organization and had more difficulty switching between tasks.
The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance.
- In each of their tests, the researchers split their subjects into two groups - those who regularly do a lot of media multi-tasking and those who don’t.
- In one experiment, the groups were shown sets of two red rectangles alone or surrounded by two, four or six blue rectangles.
- Each configuration was flashed twice, and the participants had to determine whether the two red rectangles in the second frame were in a different position than in the first frame.
- They were told to ignore the blue rectangles, and the low multi-taskers had no problem doing that.
- But the high multi-taskers were constantly distracted by the irrelevant blue images. Their performance was horrible.
So much research has been done on the effects of multitasking on the brain and how is can lead to serious health/psychological disorders. It may seems like you’re getting so much done, but your brain is getting distracted, which affects your performance. Everyone needs to slow down, and not get caught up in the digital age. Some tips to remember to achieve a single-task:
1) prevent distractions by putting fences around yourself
2) stack tasks in clusters
3) write down thoughts and return to the current activity
4) spend about 15 minutes away from your work and reflect on things
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