46 Multi-Tasking

Based on Research by David M. Sanbonmatsu, David L. Strayer*, et al, 2013. Psychology Science Minute written by Kyle Piecora, M.S.

Our lives seem busier and busier.  Those in school are juggling assignments and social lives, while others are trying to balance work, parental, and other responsibilities.  Are certain people better at doing multiple things at once?

Researchers at the University of Utah assessed 310 students’ skills of multitasking and levels of impulsivity (or the desire to reduce boredom without concern for consequences). They also measured students’ beliefs about their effectiveness at and use of multitasking, especially regarding cell phone use while driving.  The results showed that those who do not multitask are often the ones who are better able to multitask. However, people who are unable to block out distractions have higher levels of impulsivity, and actually multitask more.  This means that those who do multitask are often unable to do so well! The individuals, who thought they multitasked well, indicated they drove and used their cell phone more.

Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time.  While multitasking we alter our attention back and forth. Yet driving requires split second timing and thus our full attention.  Cell phone use is a distraction demanding your attention.  So multitaskers, set up for survival.  Make a hard safety rule not to use that cell phone while driving!


Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Strayer, D. L., Medeiros-Ward, N., & Watson, J. M.  (2013).  Who multi-tasks and why?  Multi-tasking ability, perceived multi-tasking ability, impulsivity, and sensation seeking.  PLOS ONE, 8(1), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054402.

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