Photo: Eyal Ophir with his daughter Sahar, courtesy of the subject.

Eyal Ophir was primary researcher on the pioneering Stanford Multitasking study. He now designs information interfaces for the browser RockMelt.

Avi Solomon

How did you get to studying multitasking at Stanford?

Eyal Ophir

While I was at Stanford, Cliff Nass (my advisor, and a global expert on human-computer interaction) introduced me to some great ethnographic work done by Ulla Foehr and Donald Roberts at the Dept. of Communication looking at media consumption among youth. They saw that young people were reporting more media-use hours than actual hours, and figured out these same young people must be consuming multiple streams of media simultaneously in order to fit it all in. This is where I was introduced to the concept of Media Multitasking. I came from a cognitive psychology background, and I was inspired by Anthony Wagner's work on memory and cognitive control (Anthony was my reference for all things cognitive, and ended up being the third author on the paper). So for me, the interesting question was simply how these kids are managing to process and control so much information all at once.

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