Why Humans Are Bad at Multitasking

Posted on June 18, 2013

It may not be uncommon to see someone typing out an email on their phone as they walk down the street, listen to music as they read the newspaper on the subway, or stare at a computer screen with multiple windows and tabs open. But despite constantly juggling different activities, humans are not very good at multitasking, experts say.

Dividing attention across multiple activities is taxing on the brain, and can often come at the expense of real productivity.

But if practicing an instrument can improve a musician's performance, can the same be done to a person's brain to train it to be more effective at multitasking? Psychologists say it's unlikely, because multitasking involves actively thinking about more than one thing at a time, which can overload the brain's working memory.

"Human beings have a limited capacity for information processing, so after a point, it's not clear if we're capable of doing more," said Gloria Mark, a professor in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. "It's possible that there is a learning curve, and people could train themselves to be better at multitasking, but most people won't be able to sustain that over long periods of time."

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Source material from Live Science

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