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Interesting Research re Multi-tasking

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  • Interesting Research re Multi-tasking

    Just saw this, thought I'd pass it on:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/0..._n_267774.html

    Mike

  • #2
    Multitasking?

    A comment about the word "multitasking" that I always wanted to make: How can one focus on more than one thing at a time? I think it's a misnomer. It's the fast shifting of attention from one thing to another. By choice or otherwise.

    And IMHO there is nothing inherently good or bad in it: If one actively decides to "multitask", as an ideal GTDer would do in the face of a quick series of interruptions: that's really good: deal quickly with one or get it into the system and out of mind, move on to another, and so on. On the other hand, if someone is letting four media (as it says in the article) try to grab their attention, perhaps they are not particularly intended to do anything about it. Either they are avoiding the fifth thing that is lying on their desk, or just being in the victim mentality. And they are not dealing with any of the inputs effectively; they are just letting things happen, including their own victim-like reactions.

    And the first type of multitaskers would perhaps report their number of active media to be less than the second type, because the first type would usually choose their input actively. That would be an additional bias in the correlation that this study shows.

    Just two cents from me...

    Regards,
    Abhay

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    • #3
      I think it goes hand in hand with short attention span thinking versus actual focus. A big problem I notice is that there is limited time for concentrated effort. Perhaps it's because people are now so accustomed to being confronted with lots of inputs that they don't see they aren't taking in anything other than a bunch of quick little pieces of information. That is fine for most things that come at you, but when it comes down to actually focusing on something they should they have a much harder time adjusting. Then when they do, they lose that focus much more quickly than someone who's practiced at it. I can see this frustrating a lot of teachers.

      Comment


      • #4
        Multitasking is an overused word

        I hear it all the time at work, usually from higher-ups - we need to multitask... that employee is a good multitasker... etc.

        I am a computer programmer, and have picked up what my friends say is too much insistence on precise language from years of working with machines that do exactly what they are told, not what you meant to tell them.

        There is no multitasking! People do what computers do much faster - time slicing. A computer can time-slice so well that you perceive that it's working on many things at the same time. People time-slice so poorly that you perceive that they are not working on anything.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by PatinSC View Post
          There is no multitasking! People do what computers do much faster - time slicing. A computer can time-slice so well that you perceive that it's working on many things at the same time. People time-slice so poorly that you perceive that they are not working on anything.
          Nice. I love that way of putting it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by PatinSC View Post
            I am a computer programmer, and have picked up what my friends say is too much insistence on precise language from years of working with machines that do exactly what they are told, not what you meant to tell them.

            There is no multitasking! People do what computers do much faster - time slicing. A computer can time-slice so well that you perceive that it's working on many things at the same time. People time-slice so poorly that you perceive that they are not working on anything.
            I'm not contradicting , but just to be careful...
            Computers do timeslice, of course, but they are also capable of the simultaneous execution of multiple steps at once by using different functional units of the CPU simultaneously. Dual- and quad-core cpu's do essentially the same thing at a higher level, and massively parallel clusters take this to an extreme with hundreds of CPU's or more. This is transparent to someone programming in a high-level language under most circumstances. Occasionally, one might see a problem with the compiler optimizing a bit of code in a way that defeats the programmer's intent. The solution is usually to turn off aggressive optimization for that module.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by PatinSC View Post
              There is no multitasking! People do what computers do much faster - time slicing. A computer can time-slice so well that you perceive that it's working on many things at the same time. People time-slice so poorly that you perceive that they are not working on anything.
              Well, I don't know if I'd agree that there is no multitasking. If I'm slicing an onion and listening to the radio, I'd say that I'm effectively multitasking.

              Now, you could say that I'm time-slicing, listening to a syllable on the radio and slicing a millimeter into the onion, back and forth back and forth, and just not aware of the switching.

              But I don't know if that makes sense, because even one task involves paying attention to more than one thing. Just slicing that onion requires that I'm aware of how it's balanced on the cutting board and where the knife is and where my fingers are and where the end of the onion is and where the knife is in relation to the end of the onion. There's a ton of data coming in. I don't think that it's unreasonable to think that the data from the radio coming into my ears is being processed along with the rest of the flood.

              So I'll agree that multiple tasks requiring the same resources - listening ears, typing fingers, etc. - are timesliced. But for multiple tasks requiring different resources, I don't know that I'd agree.

              Gardener

              Comment


              • #8
                Task switching.

                Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                Well, I don't know if I'd agree that there is no multitasking. If I'm slicing an onion and listening to the radio, I'd say that I'm effectively multitasking.

                Now, you could say that I'm time-slicing, listening to a syllable on the radio and slicing a millimeter into the onion, back and forth back and forth, and just not aware of the switching.
                If you are really focusing on slicing you are not listening to the radio - it is just a pleasant noise.

                If you are really focusing on listening to the radio - your fingers are in danger.

                Did you notice that when - while listening to the radio - you hear warning about fires in the neighbourhood you stop slicing an onion? At this moment you've switched the tasks.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                  If you are really focusing on slicing you are not listening to the radio - it is just a pleasant noise.

                  If you are really focusing on listening to the radio - your fingers are in danger.

                  Did you notice that when - while listening to the radio - you hear warning about fires in the neighbourhood you stop slicing an onion? At this moment you've switched the tasks.
                  My wife is a neuroscientist, and I've learned the to be very careful about assertions about how the human brain works, particularly how somebody else's brain works. Multitasking exists, in at least some sense, and some people do it "better" than others. PET scans and such have some ability to elucidate what's going on, but right now I wouldn't be dogmatic.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TesTeq View Post
                    If you are really focusing on slicing you are not listening to the radio - it is just a pleasant noise.

                    If you are really focusing on listening to the radio - your fingers are in danger.

                    Did you notice that when - while listening to the radio - you hear warning about fires in the neighbourhood you stop slicing an onion? At this moment you've switched the tasks.
                    I still have to disagree here. Neither the slicing or the radio is a highly demanding task. I think that I can do both at once, just as I can walk and talk at once.

                    Gardener

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Gardener View Post
                      I still have to disagree here. Neither the slicing or the radio is a highly demanding task. I think that I can do both at once, just as I can walk and talk at once.
                      Sure, up to a point. I can talk and walk at the same time, but if I'm trying to pick my way across a rocky avalanche chute, there are going to be long gaps in the conversation. And if the conversation gets heated, chances are I'm going to want to stop walking and make eye contact.

                      Similarly, I can listen to the radio while I slice an onion, but I'll lose the thread as soon as I try to review the recipe, or keep track of which ingredients I've added to a complicated sauce.

                      If your point is that true multitasking is possible, sure, I agree. But in my experience it degenerates to timeslicing for even mildly demanding tasks.

                      Katherine

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by kewms View Post
                        If your point is that true multitasking is possible, sure, I agree. But in my experience it degenerates to timeslicing for even mildly demanding tasks.
                        That's well put. Perhaps we can say "tasks requiring conscious focus" instead of "demanding tasks".

                        Regards,
                        Abhay

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