Think you can multitask? Congratulations, you're probably living a lie.
Hey you. Yeah, you. The one reading this while you take a working lunch to bang out some emails and phone your friend, all while scanning your twitter feed. Do you fancy yourself a multitasker? Guess again, hotshot. New research suggests you're living a lie. As it turns out, many people who think they can multitask effectively really, really can't.
According to University of Utah psychologists David Strayer and David Sanbonmatsu, people who identify as strong multitaskers tend to be impulsive, sensation-seeking and overconfident in their ability to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. In fact, note the researchers in the latest issue of PLOS, the people who multitask the most are often the least capable of doing so effectively.
The researchers arrived at their conclusion by asking 310 undergrads to rank their perceptions of their own multitasking skills on a scale ranging from 0 to 100, with a score of 50 being average. Study participants then reported on time spent on their cell phones while driving, and their exposure to various forms of media — everything from magazines to video games to text messaging and email. They were also asked to fill out surveys designed to measure impulsivity and sensation-seeking. Finally, students performed a test known as Operation Span (OSPAN) to gauge their actual multitasking abilities, which involved memorizing a series of letters, each one separated by a simple true or false math problem, like 2+3 = 6?.