Media multitaskers aren’t that smart
Study from Stanford University shows that people juggling different media have trouble paying attention
People who are regularly exposed to electronic information are paying a mental price for it, a study by the Stanford University has revealed.
A hundred students took part in the study, undergoing three tests that separately analysed their ability to filter out irrelevant information, organise their memory and switch from one job to another.
In each of the tests, the researchers split their subjects into two groups: those who regularly do a lot of media multitasking and those who don't.
Researchers found that students who juggle different media such as the internet, television and mobile phones were unable to perform well in any of the tests in comparison to those that preferred to complete one task at a time.
"They're suckers for irrelevancy," said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers involved in the study. "Everything distracts them."
High-tech jugglers are common these days – people have e-mail, IM and Twitter conversations at the same time, text message while watching television, and jump from one site to another while trying to complete an assignment.
"When they're in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they're not able to filter out what's not relevant to their current goal," said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology added. "That failure to filter means they're slowed down by that irrelevant information."
Social scientists have long assumed that it's impossible to process more than one string of information at a time but researchers argued that people who multitask must have superb control over what they think about and what they pay attention to, which this study now disputes.