Modern life is as commonly cited as being stressful as it is praised for affording new technologies and conveniences. Part of the difficulties of striking a balance between the stress and the ease of modern life is handling the many tasks, errands, and duties that present themselves on a daily basis, and the most common answer to this challenge in recent years seems to be multi-tasking. Managing to cook a gourmet meal while chatting on the phone, monitoring stocks on a TV broadcast and supervising a child may eventually result in a bit of pride at having accomplished basic chores all in one go, but a new study performed at MIT has shown that this habit may actually contribute to unhappiness as well as cognitive decline.
The study’s research team noted that a number of people are confident about their abilities to efficiently multi-task, yet in the lab, monitoring has shown that people tend to focus on one or two of the tasks at hand, without being able to allot much focus to any excess. Additionally, research performed on multi-tasking has suggested that information is recorded differently by the brain in the presence of excessive stimuli, perhaps contributing to more shallow learning and short-term memories.
With the amount of stress that multi-tasking often produces (merely thinking about the prospect can have a negative impact on mental functioning) would seem to warrant a useful reward, this research calls into question the true benefits of the practice. While a few moments may be saved in terms of time, the study suggests that taking a more moderately paced approach to life may help keep that balance between stress and easy convenience tipped on the more positive side.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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