Most of us are multi-taskers. We know how to work but still be able to do other things at the same time. However, this approach may not be as great as we think it is. Those little mini distractions that take us away from what we are mainly focused on could, in fact, be making us dumber.
A new study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab shows that each distraction that we get, whether it be a phone going off, email popping up, or a text message received, is killing our brain power little by little. The principle is simple, if you are doing more than one thing at the same time, the quality and productivity of both things will suffer. Switching between email, work, phones, Facebook, and television is not really multitasking. It is actually toggling rapidly through a multitude of tasks and never settling on a constant task. This can confuse the brain.
A study was performed on 136 people to test the theory of rapid toggling to see how it affected the thought process. Three groups were sent to the lab to take an assessment. While they were taking the first assessment the second and third groups were interrupted via IM. The first group was the control group that was allowed to finish the whole assessment with no interruption. A second assessment was then given and only the second group was interrupted. The third group waited for an interruption that never came. The test was simple, read a passage and answer a few questions about it.
The second group, which was the group interrupted the most, answered correctly 20% less often than the control group. That could be enough to drag someone from a B- (82) to a D (62) in just a matter of minutes. The second time around they improved their percentage to 14%, which can lead to the thought that they learn and adapt. The third group that was interrupted the first time but not second improved their scores by 43% and outperformed the control group.
Further research is needed but it appears that every little interruption could be making us, in essence, dumber!