There's plenty of research that provides evidence to support the idea that multitasking is a fool's bargain: instead of getting two things done at once, you go slower on both, and do worse. But there's more than one kind of multitasking: texting while driving is a terrible idea, but what about juggling multiple projects at once?
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Artist Pierre Button's "Day on a Device" series is a set of machine-generated collages created by running a program that automatically took a screenshot every time Button switched between programs on a normal working day, adding a new strip to the top of the image for each screenshot. Read the rest
A new study shows that people using a stationary bike to exercise pedal faster when they're also working on a mental task. The University of Florida researchers had actually expected that the multitasking would hinder both activities. Read the rest
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.
How did you get to studying multitasking at Stanford?
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. Read the rest