Episode 2 – Multitasking: myth or not?

In this episode, Aleena and Janine delve in to the evidence behind multitasking – is it a myth or not? Janine’s consistent inability to multitask has always been a source of much amusement within the family. Aleena, on the other hand, has always appeared to be an effective multitasker. Their research delivers some clear evidence on whether multitasking is possible and one of them has to eat their words. Meanwhile Janine explains her recent foray into straw-hoarding and Aleena rants about the lack of transparency when it comes word-inclusion decisions for Scrabble and Words with Friends.

Multicosts of Multitasking

What is multitasking and how can it be studied? A great overview of multitasking research. (And it’s a relatively short article, so you can read it without stopping to pat your cat).

Madore, K. P. & Wagner, A. D. (2019). Multicosts of multitasking. Cerebrum: the Dana Forum on Brain Science. Vol. 2019.

Think you can passively scroll through your feed and not miss a beat? Think again!

College students that passively scrolled through Instagram while listening to a story scored significantly worse in a memory recall test than students who were not looking at Instagram. The difference could equate to a whole grade change… moral of the story: the brain can’t give attention to everything at once; it can only flick/switch between tasks and there are costs of doing so.

Spence, A., Beasley, K., Gravenkemper, H., et al. (2020). Social media use while listening to new material negatively affects short-term memory in college students. Physiology & Behaviour, 227: 113172.

Working memory – it has its limits

The human brain can only juggle around 3-4 thoughts/ideas effectively at any one time. And even then, it is still flicking between the items.

Luck, S. J. & Vogel, E. K. (1997). The capacity of visual working memory for features and conjunctions. Nature, 390: 297-281.

Cognitive control in media multi-taskers

Ever have multiple streams of media content booming into your brain at once? We’re all doing this at some point in our day. But some of us are doing this more ‘heavily’ than others. What does this mean when it comes to trying to stay focused? Stanford research sheds some light.

Ophir, E., Nass, C. & Wagner, A. D. (2009). Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(37): 15583-15587.

What brought out our inner square?

Straws cannot be recycled so Janine is hoarding a big pile of them until she has a better plan. Say no to single-used straws whenever possible – more here. Soft (‘scrunchable’) plastics CAN be recycled Australia-wide thanks to RedCycle!

2,800 words added to the Scrabble dictionary! We call for more transparency in word inclusion decisions, Scrabble and Words with Friends! More here and here and here. Will Words with Friends comply with our petition to add ‘ze’ to the dictionary?!

Image credit: Matt Bero on Unsplash

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