Thursday, 3 December 2009

Multitasking costs and benefits

Continuing on the theme of multitasking and its costs and benefits.
Patricia Greenfield spoke on the theme of New media, Multitasking, Learning and Education, at the Learning and the Brain conference.
She quoted the CNN example where in addition to the news presenter, there is the "crawl". This is the area at the bottom of the screen where information scrolls or crawls by. Bergen et al (2005) reported how this distraction caused less of the information, provided by either presenter or crawl, to be taken in.
Greenfield listed the cognitive costs of multitasking:
  • can cause symptoms of situationally based ADD (declining productivity, disorganisation)
  • decreases reflection or metacognition (shifts neural activity to areas that deal with more habitual processing)
  • impaired working memory
  • hearing media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli
Some social/emotional costs:
  • can cause social.emotional symptoms of situationally based ADD (anger, snappishness, anxiety)
  • decreases family interactions
  • creates generational boundaries
  • undermines family rituals and shared communication
  • magnifies apparent importance of peer group whilst decreasing the influence of the family
She also asks what medium can counteract the cognitive cost of multitasking and she states READING. Essentially reading produces reflection and enhances critical thinking.
Her conclusions? The new media can enhance cognitive skills, performance on higher level cognitive tasks always show a decrement relative to performance under single task conditions, it can cause irritability and anxiety and enhances children's peer relationships whilst diminishing that of the family.
These points cannot be ignored.