In today’s social media driven environment, opportunities to multitask at warp speed proliferate. Online, we can dance from snippet to snippet of news, music, e-books, webinars, job postings, how-to tips, etc, etc. But how much of the “information” is our brain actually capable of absorbing?
Two (I was going to cite three but thought better of it after reading article #2) fascinating articles shed much needed light on the highly vaunted “art” of multitasking.
In The Myth of Multitasking, Karen Hopkins, reports, “when we think we’re getting better at multitasking, we’re really getting faster at switching back and forth between two different things at different times… training gets the ‘Thinking Brain’ to think a little faster. So we’re switching tasks quickly enough to appear to be doing them simultaneously. Which,” she continues, “is still nothing to shake a stick and sneeze at.”
I almost missed that simultaneous “shaking a stick and sneezing!”
In the second, more recent article published in Scientific American, How the Brain Keeps Track of Two Tasks at Once, Katherine Harmon points us to new research which”illustrates how the brain can simultaneously keep track of two separate goals, even while it is busy performing a task related to one of the aims, hinting that the mind might be better at multitasking than previously thought.”
Etienne Koechlin, director of the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Paris and coauthor of the new study shows that “rather than being totally devoted to one goal at a time, the human brain can distribute two goals to different hemispheres to keep them both in mind–if it perceives a worthy reward for doing so.”
Caveat Emptor! I said I was only going to cite two articles, but I’ll just point you to this third one by Naomi Kenner and Russell Poldrack which tries to explain What Happens When You Try To Do Three Things at Once?
As I try to visualize this, the first thing that comes to mind is “visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads” but, then, they are all sugarplums, aren’t they?