Multitasking is Multi-Distracting!

Multitasking is not as effective as you may believe.

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You might be one of the 59% of Americans that use your computer and TV at the same time. Studies show that “multi-taskers” who think they can successfully divide their attention between TV & computers prove to be driven to distraction.

Multi-taskers may convince themselves that they can do several tasks at once. Shown the facts, it appears that multitasking is not as effective as once perceived. In order to perform your best at your given task, tune in and turn off other distractions. Use one device and give it your undivided attention while you work.

"Focus on one task at a time."

For this study, all participants were placed in a room containing a television and a computer and given a half hour to use either device the researchers used a camera to calculate the participants behavior. According to lead authors S. Adam Brasel and James Gips, professors at Carroll School of Management, the participants in the study switched their focus back and between the TV and computer, regardless if they were aware of it or not. 

People placed in a room with a TV and a computer switched between the two devices a staggering 120 times in 27.5 minutes or once every 14 seconds on average.

Participants who thought they were only looking at the computer during TV commercial, or said they thought they were watching TV while web pages wereloading, were actually behaving much differently.

Brasel and Gips said that the dominant medium in this challenge is the computer. The computer drew the most attention from the user but neither device held their attentionfor very long.

It’s not just young users who are rapid-fire switching between media; adults over 40 still switched an average of nearly 100 times in 27.5 minutes. No matter, the age, all participants switched their focus back and forth. It was not just teenagers.

These findings raise important questions about the effectiveness of the two mediums for companies to reach their customers.

The Study

  • 68% of time, the participants focused on computer instead of the TV
  • On average, focus on the TV lasted two seconds
  • Focus on the computer lasted six seconds before switching gaze elsewhere
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 13, 2011
Last Updated:
May 17, 2011