Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If Information's a Drug, Multitasking is a Disease

Earlier this week, researchers at Stanford announced a “surprise finding” that people with access to many kinds of media tend to be more distracted than those who don’t. Come on Stanford, is that really the best you c…

[checks facebook]

The article itself is rather entertaining. Apparently, we lost children “love stuff that doesn’t matter” and “can’t help thinking about things [we] aren’t doing.” And when we descend into the shadowy underworld of so-called high multitasking, “[Our] greatest thrill is to get more.”

I wonder if it isn’t a bit of an overstatement to categorize multitaskers as lovers of triviality. The multitaskers in this study performed worse in concentration tests, true – but perhaps that’s because people with access to Blackberries/iPones/laptops/etc. have learned to prioritize their focus across media to maximize personal utility and entertainment. Why – for example – would I focus on some lab researcher’s red rectangles when I can look at the red and blue rectangles and simultaneously plan which 30 Rock reruns I want to watch while I Yelp where I can get some great potstickers tonight?

In any case – the article DOES contain some good news. It seems, “Lawyers or advertisers can try to use irrelevant information to distract or refocus people to influence their decisions.” Dang – that’s another one they forgot to mention in my legal skills class.


Blogger Sarah Alaoui said...

haha I read that article as well and wasn't left awestruck or anything...anyone can put two and two together. you brought up good points.

8/26/2009 8:59 PM  
OpenID idwsj said...

My life would be meaningless without distractions.

8/26/2009 9:02 PM  
Blogger L'Alex said...

Sarah and idwsj, agreed. Playing with shiny things is a fundamental human (and raccoon) quality... and while electronic doo-dads might exacerbate it, I don't really think it's anything new.

8/26/2009 10:18 PM  

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