Many people believe themselves to be multitasking masters; however, our brains were not build to multitask. Is this the brief?
Human multitasking is the practice of doing multiple things simultaneously, for instance, taking a phone call, or listening to your GPS while driving. This concept of multitasking began in a computing context. Moreover, we live in a fast-paced world where we feel tempted to multitask all the time, whether it is while performing a task at work, driving your kids to school, or watching TV. So, in today’s society, the mere idea of doing one thing at a time seems downright outrageous, even wasteful. Although multitasking is generally looked at to be a positive concept done by those who are most skilled and can complete different tasks at the same time, is it truly beneficial? Let’s find out!
First of all, some believe that multitasking makes them more productive; however, multitasking kills the performance of people and results in potential brain damage. According to a research done at Stanford University, multitasking lowers the productivity of workers that choose to do it, when compared to the ones that choose to complete a single task at a time. It also proves that our brains are only capable of focusing on one thing at a time, it cannot perform multiple tasks at the same time successfully. Bombarding our brains with excessive information only increases mistakes and slows it down (Bradberry, 2014).
Furthermore, some claim that they have a gift at multitasking; nonetheless, when they think they are multitasking successfully, their brains are actually switching from one task to another at a high speed, with a cost to bear when doing so. To prove that more than one task splits the brain, scientists throughout the years have conducted experiments to discover the limitations of the human brain.
When paying attention, the area toward the front of the brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, takes action. The prefrontal cortex is divided into two parts, the right and left sides. The two sides work together when given one task; however, the sides work separately when humans try to perform more than one task at a time.
Scientists at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Paris, proved this to be true by conducting a simple experiment that includes asking multiple participants to complete two tasks. The study’s results show that when dealing with concurrent goals, the brain divides in half. In addition, the study proves that although humans have trouble doing two tasks, they are unable to juggle three or more because the brain has only two frontal lobes, the right and left sides (Allen, 2013). Moreover, a person’s ability to perform the different tasks also highly depends on the tasks being performed and how much the prefrontal cortex is engaged during the tasks. For instance, normal activities like eating and watching TV at the same time place less demand on the brain, than more difficult activities like reading and driving.
Additionally, multitasking does not just negatively affect our work quality and performance but also affects our health. A study conducted by the University of London proves that students who multitask experienced significant IQ drops. The scary part is that those IQ drops were found to be similar to drops resulting from smoking marijuana. Alongside IQ drops, multitasking increases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, since having to do multiple tasks at once keeps a person on edge and intense.
In conclusion, multitasking allows progress on multiple tasks and helps us learn to deal with distractions, but on the other hand, trying to accomplish too much at once affects our ability to do those tasks well. Arranging your tasks and choosing to accomplish them once at a time will enable you to perform each task better than choosing to do them all at once. For instance, talking on the phone while driving will result in you paying less attention to the person you are talking to and to the cars around you.