Tag Archives: multitasking

Multitasking makes us dumber, in that trying to focus on more than one activity at a time not only leads to inferior outputs but can actually produce a measurable decrease in IQ. But, of course, some tasks require more attention than others. Surely, you might say, just answering a text message while studying couldn’t hurt… Wrong. Researchers at Michigan State University found that even short interruptions can have a surprisingly large effect on the ability to accurately complete a task. Among a group of 300 subjects performing work on a computer, interruptions of approximately three seconds doubled the error rate. Erik Altmann, lead researcher on the study, drew a fairly reasonable conclusion about why such brief interruptions caused errors to spike: “The answer is that the participants had to shift their attention from one task to another. Even momentary interruptions can seem jarring when they occur during a process that…

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In the realm of computing, a thread is the smallest sequence of programmed instructions that can be managed independently. In most cases, a thread is deemed a component of a process. Multiple threads can exist within one process, executing concurrently and sharing resources such as memory. Thus, programmers must determine how many threads and processes to allot for at any given time. Single-threading, the processing of one command at a time, isn’t very common in our modern world of multithreading, multitasking, and multiprocessors. Such is the sophistication of modern hardware and software. Unfortunately, though the computers we humans design improve in processing power on a regular basis, humans themselves do not. Every minute of every day, our brains manage countless conscious and unconscious individual operations related to cognition, perception, regulation, communication, and motor control. Yet even the most complex organ in the human body has its limits. Overloading the conscious…

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Is there anyone who can’t relate to that sublime moment of artistic reverie triggered by a particularly boring lecture? I did a lot of my best artwork during high school and college in the margins of notebooks. But just as universal as doodling during instruction might be, so is the experience of having a teacher shut the artistic process down. Classroom doodling has been perceived as both disrespectful to speakers and deleterious to listeners. But is doodling in class really so bad? Some research suggests otherwise. A small study conducted at the University of Plymouth, UK asked participants to monitor a monotonous phone message regarding the names of people coming to a party. The subjects were split into doodlers and non-doodlers. Surprisingly, the doodling group recalled 29% more information about the message on a surprise memory test. Multitasking generally impedes learning, productivity, and performance. However, exceptions can be made in…

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Meet Rory, a bright, motivated high school junior who can definitely see himself as a doctor (or lawyer or professor or CEO…) someday. Rory, a three-sport athlete and AP student, has made the most of his school experience so far in an effort to present as an outstanding applicant to any college. Aware of the considerable benefits of prepping for the SAT & ACT early in junior year, Rory and his family begin tutoring in September with an eye on the December exams… Junior year these days demands far more of teenagers than most adults realize. Ambitious students don’t just take on advanced classes but also juggle a slew of activities in which they must show commitment, leadership, and excellence. Extracurriculars can be particularly stressful during pressure points in a season, especially when coaches demand absolute acquiescence to uncertain practice schedules. While Rory was excited about preparing for the SAT…

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Oprah Winfrey famously said, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” You may be able to do it all as well, but again, not all at once. Just use our 12 Days of Time Management for Teens:   Single-thread Our brains are wondrous machines, capable of phenomenal feats of cognition, recognition, and synthesis. Yet, our wetware lacks some standard features found in modern hardware. Your computer, tablet, or even phone might be able to run multiple processes in parallel without loss of function, but you probably cannot. Obviously, we unconsciously regulate a slew of autonomic functions while processing and filtering a flood of sensory data. But as far as tasks that require focus are concerned, we run on single-processors. In computer programming parlance, single-threading is the processing of one command at a time. Embrace the concept of single-threading rather than multitasking. Multitasking makes us a little dumber…

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Do you have time for an easy quiz? Just answer this one question: Do you do better work after a good night’s sleep or after missing a full night of sleep? Easy, right? Believe it or not, multitasking has the same impact on our work as losing a night’s sleep, according to trials run at King’s College London: In 80 clinical trials, Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College London University, monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day. He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points — the equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana. Why give up the the mental processing power of 10 full IQ points if you don’t have to? Unless you are part of the supertasker elite, unplug from media and work on one…

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