Why We’re Driven To Multitask

Paul Atchley, associate professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kansas, shares some clear headed thoughts on the futility of multitasking, and what we can proactively do to decrease distraction and avoid overload.

At the Harvard Business Review, Paul Atchley, an associate professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kansas, shares some clear headed thoughts on the futility of multitasking, and what we can proactively do to decrease distraction and avoid overload.

On why we’re driven to multitask:

Our brains are wired to respond strongly to social messaging, whether it is verbal or non-verbal. Knowing and improving our status, expanding awareness of our group, is important to us, and as a result information that helps us do that is often processed automatically, no matter what else we are trying to focus on.

Remote distractions, the ones aided by technology, are often unaware of current demands on us. People who call you at work, send you emails, or fire off texts can’t see how busy you are with your current task. Nor can Twitter feeds or email alerts. As a result, every communication is an important one that interrupts you.

Also, we crave access to more information because it makes us comfortable. People tend to search for information that confirms what they already believe. Multiple sources of confirmation increase our confidence in our choices. Paradoxically, more information also leads to discomfort, because some of it might be conflicting. As a result, we then search for more confirmatory information.

Harvard Business Review: “You Can’t Multitask, So Stop Trying”

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