Multitasking Has Negative Effects on Learning

28 Jul ’06

I tend to harp on this one, and have posted often on research that puts the lie to our culture’s current fixation on the myth of multitasking as a viable strategy for improving personal productivity. So, herewith, yet another bit of research, via BusinessPundit:

Multi-tasking affects the brain’s learning systems, and as a result, we do not learn as well when we are distracted, UCLA psychologists report this week in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn,” said Russell Poldrack, UCLA associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study. “Even if you learn while multi-tasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily. Our study shows that to the degree you can learn while multi-tasking, you will use different brain systems.

“The best thing you can do to improve your memory is to pay attention to the things you want to remember,” Poldrack added. “Our data support that. When distractions force you to pay less attention to what you are doing, you don’t learn as well as if you had paid full attention.”

Now, just don’t get me started on the use of celphones while driving.

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