Thursday, October 23, 2014

Multitasking Can Make You Stupid

Photo from Flickr by Ryan Ritchie
Did you know that “digital multitasking causes significant cognitive disability and even brain damage”? (Liberman) Multitasking can affect the quality of a students work in school. If you are one of those people who listens to music while doing homework like I do, then you should take into consideration, how important your grades are to you, because they can suffer if you don’t focus. Though you may be forced to concentrate during class, using a laptop at home is also a problem, with so many distractions around you.
Some people say they are good multitaskers, and others say that it downgrades the level of whatever it is they are doing. In 2010, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 said they spent about 7.5 hours a day using technology (Willingham). In 2011, that number increased to 11.5 hours, with the same age group, due to technological advances. Also, about 75% of high school students surveyed said they use laptops, cellphones, and/or an Ipod during class. Students say they are good at multitasking, think about how much you remember from your previous lesson if you were also trying to talk to a friend, or taking notes on the computer and getting distracted. It has been proven that having music playing, or the T.V. on in the background can also be distracting even though it may not be very loud, although few studies have shown that background music isn’t a distraction to some people.

An important thought is, “Young people are born into technology, and they’re used to using it 24/7… Their brains are wired to use it elegantly.” (Dr. Gary Small) What some people fail to realize is, if we constantly use technology for everything we do, our brains will have a harder time remembering simple things, because we always look them up. If there was ever a point where you didn’t have access to something that could look up information for you, you probably wouldn’t be able remember it. So is the next generation going to be born automaticly better at multitasking with technology? No. We aren’t born knowing how to do that. It is something taught to us by society. From a child’s early years, they aren’t instantly thinking they should watch T.V. and do their homework at the same time. If you prefer to look at this in a semi-scientific way, if you often overwhelm your brain with electronic information, how will you pay careful attention to what really matters to you.

In a study at Stanford University,Researchers, Clifford Nass, Eyal Ophir, and Anthony Wagner, put 100 students through three tests. Half the students multitasked a lot, and the other half didn’t. The first test was: the students “were shown sets of two red rectangles alone or surrounded by two, four or six blue rectangles.” The picture was flashed twice, and they had to be able to tell if the red rectangles were in the same position each time. The students who multitasked a lot had a very hard time ignoring the blue rectangles. The students who didn’t multitask very much excelled at this experiment, and were able to concentrate on the red rectangles. The second test was showing the students letters in alphabetical order, and they had to keep track of the letters that showed up more than once. If you were thinking people who multitask have a better memory than others, you would be wrong, because they failed that test as well. Since many people believe that you can focus on multiple things at once “perhaps they excelled at switching from one thing to another faster and better than anyone else.” When the students were shown letters and numbers, the kids who multitasked couldn’t separate the letters from number to tell whether or not the number was even or odd.

Did you know younger people have more mental capacity than adults do? (Willingham). Well it’s true. It makes youth better at multitasking, but the bad side is that it also lowers the speed and accuracy of the tasks you are working on (Watson and Strayer). Jason Watson and David Strayer put 200 college undergrads behind the wheel of a virtual car, while they had to perform tasks like doing math problems. Only 2.5% of the students could do it without being affected at all. In my opinion multitasking is a bad idea (even though I occasionally watch t.v. while doing my homework). It is not something you want to make a habit of. Studies show that multitasking can also worsen your short term memory; wouldn’t it be horrible if you were taking quiz, and you couldn’t remember something that you just read about the night before? That could happen if you listen to music, watch t.v etc. while studying.

In conclusion, students are generally not very good at multitasking. It may seem like an okay idea at the time, but the excellence of your work may not be to the standard that you expect. In my case, sometimes I don’t even realize I’m multitasking when I listen to music and study, but once I realized that my work habits had to change, the quality of my work got better and better. I feel that if parents pay close attention to their kids when they do homework, and teachers pay close attention during class, then we can help prevent the negative effects of multitasking.

Conclusion (edited 11/11/14)

While creating this blog, I realized more and more, that multitasking can affect a students work quality in school, as well as the health problems it causes. Think about yourself as a digital citizen, and make sure you are using technology appropriately. As for the comments, I still believe that multitasking can impact your health with negative effects, but they made me think about those effects in more detail, and I researched for recent articles on the topic. The comments people left helped me to clarify the impacts multitasking has on your brain because of the links people left. When I first started researching multitasking, I didn't expect to find to many different perspectives, or much differing information, but I was very wrong. So many schools, and researchers have studied and surveyed people on this topic, and I found it really interesting to see how multitasking affected large amounts of the population. Researching and writing about multitasking has made me more aware health risks that come with newer and more advanced technology. New technology is helping modern society in so many different ways, like mobile music, getting information quickly, and helping you get to a destination,  but using it all at once may not be such a good idea. Blogging is a fun way to get people's insight from around the world, on a topic that interests you. I would suggest it to anyone who wants to let the world know about something you have strong feelings or opinion about.


  1. Before I read about this article, there is no way that I will ever think that multitasking will be so harmful to human. So, how can multitasking harm people? I did some research on the internet. What I found out is not a surprise. Multitasking can lower people's IQ as well as damaging their brain, which shares the same idea as the article above. ( The Real Harm in Multitasking ) From these information, if there is someone that you know or care about do multitasking, please tell them how will multitasking harm them.

    1. Thank you for the article Tyler. I really enjoyed reading it. I thought it was interesting how the University of Sussex researchers found that people who multitask have a lower density in their anterior cingulate cortex, which is the part of the brain that controls emotion. I didn’t know it could have such physical effects on the brain.

  2. This article is very well written. It informed me a lot about multitasking and made me a bit worried for my health as well as others I know, because it has become a rather common phenomenon in this generation. I believe it may be helpful to find some information on how to stop multitasking before it happens, or how to break the habit of doing so.

    1. Thank you LycSec. I think the more people who are informed about the harmful effects of multitasking, the less people would do it, or at least be more conscientious about it.

  3. Dear Alex,
    I liked how you included the studies done to students in great detail, which really helped me understand how multitasking can effect you. Also in what areas it can effect you, and what things are listed under multitasking. I often multitask with the television or music in the background, so it was great to know how it effects my life.
    Keep up the good blogging.

  4. Thanks student. I'm glad you are interested in the dangers of multitasking. I found this article published on October 9, 2014, that talks about more recent dangers of multitasking and how it can hurt you career. Hope you enjoy it.


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