Saturday, April 5, 2008


ELIZABETH T B JOHNSTON, IEEE POTENTIALS (publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics)

- You may think that what you are doing is "multitasking", but really your brain can only make one decision at a time. A good multi-tasker is really just switching back and forth. . . A study carried out at the British Institute of Psychiatry . . . found that excessive use of technology reduced workers' intelligence and that those distracted by incoming e-mail and phone calls saw a ten-point fall in their IQ, over twice the impact of smoking or marijuana use. . .

Programmers [for example ] know that task switches take a long time. It is easier to keep going once you're at full steam . . . than to stop work and finish later. That last hour might take three hours, since you have to retrieve all of the background info from long-term memory and bring it back to the front of your mind.

Studies report that the American worker wastes 2.1 hours per day due to multitasking. When distracted while performing a task, it takes a certain amount of time to begin the new task, complete the new task and get back on track with the original task. Microsoft employees had their computers log their work for a period and found that simply dealing with an e-mail message took an average of 15 minutes and often lead to subsequent distractions, which lead to the employee taking up to an hour to get back to their original task.

The bottom line is that multitasking has been proven to make us less effective, not more. Although our digital assistants can be time savers, they can also be time wasters, if we allow them to break our focus. So for all of you who trouble getting things done . . . turn off your chat, RSS feeds, Google Desktop, Outlook alerts and whatever else keeps distracting you, and see what it would it would be like to simply focus on [ the task at hand ].


At April 5, 2008 5:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in "corporate America," that break cultural wasteland that has no time for philosophy or any other higher order social functions. The objective there is largely to "look" busy. All the computers, PDAs, cellphones and other sundry contraptions are simply props for corporate actors. In such an environment the loss of a few IQ points seems a fair trade for the image of being an uber-executive.

At April 6, 2008 3:11 AM, Blogger Larry said...

So that explains it. Notice that the uber-executives do have all the toys. I've always been jealous, and I've often thought I was smarter than they were. Now it all comes together.

At April 6, 2008 2:04 PM, Anonymous I smell prohibitionist bullshit said...

"that excessive use of technology reduced workers' intelligence and that those distracted by incoming e-mail and phone calls saw a ten-point fall in their IQ, over twice the impact of smoking or marijuana use. . . "
It's hard to take the overall assertion seriously if one knows the latter part is a complete fallacy. While some people may temporarily lose their focus under the influence, the notion that marijuana lessens the user's i.q., even fleetingly, is absurd.

At April 7, 2008 9:55 AM, Anonymous Dave Crenshaw said...

There is a load of other evidence to back this study up. FOr a snippet, visit

At April 7, 2008 12:02 PM, Anonymous wellbasically said...

I doubt they meant permanently diminished IQ either for the pot smoker or the multitasker.

I do know people who only feel like they're working when they are running around the office from one project to another. I think they recognize that feeling of stress and disjanglement as work and they seek it out again, even when they could be efficiently working along on one thing.

At April 16, 2008 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give up all your constitutional rights that are the foundations for multi-tasking so the New World Order being implemented by the Jesuits and Vatican can do all your thinking and feeling for you and your family.

This author and article are propaganda garbage.

At April 18, 2008 4:08 PM, Blogger Ian said...

This makes me wonder in retrospect about how we were interrupted in school on an hourly basis by a bell. Does this suggest that education could be more effective if subjects were focused on intensely for a longer, uninterrupted period?

At April 22, 2008 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent point Ian,

In the most homeschool communities, both secular and religious, the hourly bell is a major reason for choosing homeschooling.

Teaching kids to change activites to a bell, teaches kids that everything they do is of the same value. Nothing is worth spending more time on, children are not taught to deeply learn a skill or fully explore a new topic, they are taught to just do the work that is assigned, and be ready for the next bell. A great indoctrination for wage slavery.

Schools in the US are more about indoctrination and having a working class of mediocre literacy, not the education our young people. Running schools by the bell enforces this. It's bad for kids and it's bad for the teachers. Nobody learns well under that pressure, even the best A+ student is not reaching their potential by schooling by the bell. Teachers cannot do their best with complex topics in a hour, and must either give surface explanations, or they must break the topic up over a few days, which causes confusion for many kids and disrupts the learning process.

One needs to understand that schooling is more about social control then it is about education. Then the things school does all make sense.

Read John Holt or John Taylor Gatto for more on the problems of schooling by the bell.


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