Multitaskers Aren't Fooling Anyone: Stanford

Study shows they aren't good at much of anything

By Lori Preuitt
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 4:38 PM EDT
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Try doing one thing at a time.

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Attention multitaskers:  You're not fooling anyone.   Although you look busy and involved in your work, a new study out of Stanford shows you aren't really paying attention to any of your tasks.

"They're suckers for irrelevancy," said Professor Clifford Nass. "Everything distracts them."

The Stanford researchers took 100 students through a series of tests. Half of the group claimed to be masters of the multitask. The other half worked a step at a time.

In one test, the groups were shown two sets of different colored triangles and told to ignore a certain color and count the other. The step at a time group had no problem counting, while the multitaskers were constantly distracted by the second color triangles and basically failed the assignment.  Remember, these are Stanford students who are supposed to have a high level of intelligence.

Multitaskers also failed in tests of memory.   

And that is not all.  They also failed at the thing they are supposed to do best, which is switching from one thing to the other.

Researcher Eyal Ophi said multitaskers couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing. "The high multitaskers are always drawing from all the information in front of them. They can't keep things separate in their minds," Ophi said.

The findings were published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

After reading this you might want to consider holding off on that Facebook post, turning off ESPN and delaying that text to Aunt Susie the next time you want to read an article in your favorite magazine.

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