Do your project teams suffer from chronic media multitasking? There is no doubt that multitasking, particularly among the most experienced, can be inefficient and even harmful. Clifford Nass and Thomas M. Storke Professor at Stanford University Abstract multitasker. Photo by totalAldo via Flickr. Although multitasking is becoming more common, it is still a challenge for human cognition to process multiple streams of information. A series of experiments was conducted to determine if there were systematic differences in the information processing styles of chronically heavy and light media multitaskers. To identify heavy and light media multitaskers, a trait media multitasking index has been developed. The cognitive control dimensions were used to compare the two groups. Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more vulnerable to interference from irrelevant stimuli and from irrelevant representations of memory. It was surprising to see that heavy media multitaskers did worse in a task-switching test. This is likely due to their reduced ability to filter out interference from irrelevant task sets. These results show that media multitasking is a rapidly increasing societal trend. It is associated with a unique approach to fundamental information processing. What is “Media Multitasking?” The study examined chronic media multitasking. ? “Media multitasking”, as I understand it, is specifically related to computer-related multitasking between?unrelated tasks. This could be used to write this blog post while simultaneously checking my email, Twitter, and Facebook. Ooops…. Sorry! According to my understanding, media multitasking does not include the simultaneous completion of related tasks. If I write this blog post, and then switch to the article to check facts or find information, I am still working on the “project”. If a programmer is working on code and instant messages a teammate for advice, it is not multitasking. However, the one who sent out the message may have been doing something else, so the receiver could be multitasking. Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor, is one of the authors. He noted in a recent?Science Friday podcast that instrumental music did not have the same cognitive effects as true media multitasking. ? (So programmers can still jam out to rave music while they code! Abilities Researchers didn’t observe multitasking people. This study classified people as chronic media multitaskers or those who don’t and assessed cognitive functions separately. The study focused on three specific abilities. The researchers were shocked to discover that chronic media multitaskers were worse at all three. ?Even though I have been a vocal critic of bad multitasking for a while, I was surprised to learn that people don’t improve their skills as they practice multitasking.

  • Filtering – Chronic multitaskers are more likely to filter than others and ignore irrelevant information.
  • Management of Working Memory – Chronic multitaskers have a less organized management of working memory
  • Task switching – Chronic multitaskers are slower at task shifting

Possible Implications: In the case of an instant message in which the sender is not multitasking, but the receiver is, if they respond immediately, an immediate solution such as Yammer, Twitter, or email could be the answer. The receiver can answer the question if they have taken the time to review the tool. This study supports the idea of having a war room that is free from outside distractions. Even though the study was focused on chronic media multitasking it is clear that physical distractions can have similar effects. It would be inter