Is Media multitasking making us less likely to remember or retain information? There now an overabundance of evidence that suggest multitasking is bad for your brain, productivity and stress levels. Though the concern about young people use of technology is nothing new. Scientist and academics are highly worried about the affects media multitasking can bring to a person attention span when trying to complete major tasks. Generation Y ability to attend to multiple streams of information and entertainment while studying, doing our homework, or even sitting in class has become common behavior among our generation. Our lives are full of distraction and gadgets that vibrant, flash, buzz, beep, news headlines that are limited to 140 characters, which have the ability to evolve a conversations through the form of emjois. These new ways of communicating have made their way into our everyday practice of our modern lives. Distracting us from any task we may be facing, some of us can handle it well while others tend to struggle.
It been highlighted through the News Daily that researcher John Medina a molecular biologist found that multitaskers made twice as many errors, and took 50 per cent longer to complete a single task (cited by Bowden, 2014). Medina claims that their productivity almost halved compared to people working on a single task (cited by Bowden, 2014). Though Bowden (2014) highlights that in some cases multitasking can occasionally be a good thing. Through a study conducted by University of New South Wales, a economic professor Dr . Gigi Foster found (Bowden, 2014) that multitasking might actually be good for people doing tasks that don’t require a lot of concentration. Illustrating that it reduces stress and boost productivity in task that your passionate about. However there is negative concerning the impacts of multitasking, Bowden (2014) states “the average time we spend on a task before being interrupted is just over a minute, and the average person will check their phone 150 times a day”.
In a study conducted by Stanford University found people who where able to multitask had trouble concentrating and struggled to recall information. Their research study put 100 students through a series of three selective tasks, which heavily realizes on media multitaskers. One researcher who operated this experiment Professor Cliffos Nass stated “they’re suckers for irrelevancy, everything distracts them”(cited by Gorlick, 2009). The study theory was based off the hypothesis that high multitaskers couldn’t ignore things that where happening around them. Researchers assumed this was because they where better at storing and organizing information instead (Gorlick, 2009). However what was interesting is that during the conduction of the test they where proven wrong. The high multitiaskers did a bad job at remembering a repeat pattern of a sequence of letters (Gorlick, 2009). What was interesting was their study showed that low multitaskers where able to do a great job at remembering the pattern sequence (Gorlick, 2009). They concluded that their studies proved multitasking is essential in our 21st century lives. However they acknowledge that not enough is known about how to help workers or students to multitask effectively in order to prepare young people to master the skill (Wallis, 2010, p.10).
The medical daily reported that the “human attention span shortens to 8 seconds due to digital technology” (Borreli , 2015) stating that the rise of gadgets in our digital era has led to a huge decline in our human attention span , claiming that it is now less then a goldfish. Even Microsoft conducted their own study to understand why the impact of digital technology has affected our attention spans. Their Finding revealed that the human attention span has fallen from the average of 12 seconds to eight in the space of sixteen years (Borreli , 2015) , particularly in the age bracket of 18-34 year olds. Highlighting that the average person shifts their attention between their smartphone, tablet and laptop 21 times in an hour. This suggests the human attention span is smaller due to the growing presence of these gadgets (Borreli , 2015).
For this week task I decided to construct my own small study on the concerns of our attention span, testing the above theories. To do receive and achieve the right data I needed to set up two tests. The first test was designed to test the participant’s perception and awareness. This was conducted by choosing two participants from different generations to watch the same perception video. I used my Father John Brunton aged 52(gen x ) and my brother Ryan Brunton 24 (gen y) (who both kindly gave me permission to use their name in this blog). Their task was to watch the video and report back on how many changes they found during the video. However while watching this video their were many distraction around them, the TV, my dog, cellphones going off and the home phone. I wanted to see if they could ignore these factors and concentrate on the video. What was proven is that my brother was able to focus on the task quite well; he managed to pick up the most changes within the video. While my father struggled, focusing more one the plot line of the video then the task he was given. Proving that gen y even with the distraction was able to concentrate on the task in front of him.
The second test was designed to test their multitasking abilities, by choosing a TV show they both really enjoyed. Their task was to watch both of these show and repeat a sentence back to me, a sentence that would be given at any time. The purpose of this test is to examine if a person can multitask and provide their full concentration to a job. The participant’s first TV shows was an episode from the ABC Gruen, a selection made from my father followed through with the TV show Suits, chosen by Ryan. What was shown was that my father after a short period of time, was able to repeat back a sentence to me in the right order while watching his TV show. When forced to watch my brothers TV choice, John response was quicker and correct. However, when it was Ryan turn to repeat back the sentence while watching dad selection, he was able to respond quicker and correctly. Though when watching his own selection he wasn’t able to communicate the sentence back to me in the right order. These test proved that with the existing research above younger generations are more likely to be distracted by a situation. Especially if the situation is deemed more important then the task they are trying to complete.
As always all the best
enjoy this video about how phones took over our social lives
Bowden, E 2014, ‘Think multitasking is productive? Think again,’ The New daily, 30th October, viewed 16th September, <http://thenewdaily.com.au/money/work/2014/10/30/think-productive-multi-tasker-think/>
Borreli, L 2015, ‘Human attention span shortens to 8 seconds due to digital technology:3 ways to stay focused,’ Medical daily, 14th May, viewed 16th September, <http://www.medicaldaily.com/human-attention-span-shortens-8-seconds-due-digital-technology-3-ways-stay-focused-333474
Gorlick, A 2009, ‘Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford study shows,’ Stanford News, 24th August, viewed 16th September, <http://news.stanford.edu/2009/08/24/multitask-research-study-082409/>.
Wallis,C 2010, ‘The impacts of Media Multitasking on children’s learning and development’, A report from a research seminar, Stanford University, New york, January, viewed 16th September 2016, <http://multitasking.stanford.edu/MM_FinalReport_030510.pdf>.