Doing different things at the same time seems to be desirable, but is it economic? This is what scientists in California wanted to know and their results are quite disillusioning.
With so many electronic media like the Internet, iPods, mobile phones, DVDs, MP3 players etc. at their hands, many children have developed a skill of juggling around with those at the same time. Some even maintain that on top of that they can do their homework or cook.
But now scientists have confirmed the belief of many parents that it is impossible to concentrate on more than one thing at the same time. They found that children tackling homework while sending messages via the Internet can end up spending 50% longer than if they had done each task separately.
David E Meyer, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Michigan, said true multitasking is only possible for simple activities such as ironing and listening to the radio. He conducted experiments demonstrating that young adults who had to switch between various maths problems wasted significant amounts of time.
Meyer said: “For cases involving more complex tasks — especially requiring language — then genuine no-cost multitasking is essentially impossible . . . the total time taken to get all the tasks done will increase greatly.”
“Over long periods it can stress you out and lead to mental and physical dysfunction, as often happens with air-traffic controllers.”
If a child says, 'I can do six things on my computer and be in control of them all. And I can be on the house phone, and text and listen to my iPod at the same time', this may be true, but it is highly ineffective because doing things separately and one after the other takes much less time...

From: The Sunday Times, March 26, 2006

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