The Myth of Multitasking

May 13, 2013

I have for a long time been suspicious of the whole business of multitasking, in particular people who claim or believe that they can do a number of things simultaneously and do them well. One particular individual of this sort that I know has left a string of unfinished projects behind him. At the other extreme, the people I know who excel in a given field are people who have given a single minded devotion to one pursuit over a long span of time.

Just a few days ago, I heard an NPR broadcast on their "Science Friday". They interviewed Clifford Nass, a Stanford Psychology professor and author of a book "The Man who lied to his Laptop". One of my favorite quotes from him:

The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits. They're basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking.

The entire interview:


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