March 25, 2007

Multitasking has it's limits

25multi.1.600.jpg Several research papers, both recently published and not yet published, provide evidence of the limits of multitasking, reports The New York Times.

"The findings, according to neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggest that many people would be wise to curb their multitasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car.

“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Mayer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”

... The paper also found that “beyond an optimum, more multitasking is associated with declining project completion rates and revenue generation.”

The productivity lost by overtaxed multitaskers cannot be measured precisely, but it is probably a lot. Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex, a business-research firm, estimates the cost of interruptions to the American economy at nearly $650 billion a year.

That total is an update of research published 18 months ago, based on surveys and interviews with professionals and office workers, which concluded that 28 percent of their time was spent on what they deemed interruptions and recovery time before they returned to their main tasks."

On bicycle, on foot and often behind the wheel, users of digital devices present potentially dangerous scenes every day in Manhattan. More photos

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