Are you reading this while thumbing through text messages, streaming a TV show online, or scribbling a note to your child’s teacher? (Or maybe doing all three?) Don’t congratulate yourself.
Even though most people think an amped-up, gadget-dependent lifestyle makes them more nimble, focused, and efficient, that may not be the case. In fact, many researchers believe the human brain can’t really perform two or more tasks simultaneously, as the word multitask implies.
Rather, they say, the mind toggles between tasks. And while mindless activities like walking and chewing gum aren’t a problem, the brain doesn’t fare well when people double up on complex tasks, such as driving and talking on a cell phone.
“Something’s got to give,” says David E. Meyer, PhD, director of the Brain, Cognition, and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. “Either your cell phone conversation will suffer or your driving will suffer.”