Multitasking Has Negative Effects on Learning


More negative research on multitasking that multitaskers will probably not believe.

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."

  • This is a very validating post. I find that when I’m multi-tasking my retention is horrible. I was beginning to believe I was losing my mind until I realized I wasn’t actually devoting my mind to the task at hand – that was why I couldn’t remember things!

  • This isn’t surprising. Unlike, a parallel processing computer, with multiple processors doing different things, human beings can only focus on ONE thing at a time. Multi-taskers try to reduce the time they spend doing that one thing till it approaches zero, and then ALTERNATE from task 1 to task 2 to task 3…

    Multi-taskers are thus single-tasking, but only spending smaller time-windows on each one, thereby reducing efficiency.

    We live in a world that is moving and changing so fast, that some of us helplessly and unconsciously begin to multi-task, as a response.