From multitasking and monotasking

From multitasking and monotasking

Image: petr novak/ CC-BY-SA-2.5

Tendency to pay shorter attention to a task also depends on personality traits, according to one study, but why is higher attention associated with shorter sleep times?

Multitasking is the jumping of attention between two or more tasks. This is a natural process because attention is a needle’s eye of cognitive processing and can only focus on one process while the rest fades into the background. When we communicate with someone, we jump between talking, listening and observing as well as when we walk and let our eyes wander between near and far. Attention is also a danger and need sensor, which is why it is always geared to detecting changes and new things, which is why attention can easily be shifted from concentrated attention to focused attention by an appropriate stimulus environment "monotasking" can be distracted.

In short, focusing attention on a task for a long time is a cultural discipline, after all, it means blocking out the possible dangers and temptations of the environment. This can be risky and prevent opportunities to gain pleasure. In the information society, the consequences of multitasking demands in the workplace became a problem. After all, people sitting in front of computer screens are exposed to a lot of different information competing for attention, for example, emails or other notifications arrive while reading or writing, or a caller knocks on the phone via skype, with whom one talks while skimming the emails or following the facebook or twitter stream.

In addition, monotasking can lead to boredom, which makes people want to be distracted or interrupted. This is much easier in front of digital screens than in the pre-digital world, because computers run all kinds of applications, so you don’t have to change devices to switch from work to entertainment or communication, for example.

It is clear from studies that frequent switching between different tasks decreases the duration of concentration on a task and that switching between different activities takes more time to finish a task than when working on it in a concentrated way. A team of scientists from the university of california, irvine, from microsoft research and from the MIT-media lab has now conducted a study to find out to what extent multitasking while working on the computer is influenced by individual factors such as personality, stress or sleep times, or rather. Which people are more inclined to multitask.

For this purpose, the online activities of 40 "information workers" (administrative, management and engineering staff) were recorded for two weeks using microsoft’s windows activity logging program. This involves registering which window is in the foreground and which window the user is interacting with. In addition, the degree of neuroticism and impulsivity as well as stress perception and sleep duration were recorded for the personality.

The short attention span is astonishing. The user spends a median of 40 seconds or an average of 47 seconds in front of a window, i.E. With a task, before switching to the next window. The longest attention spans are spent using emails (61.8 seconds) and for "productivity programs (word, powerpoint, excel, etc.).) at 64 seconds, while communication applications such as skype or IM are used more briefly at 42.5 seconds. One works in love. More than 130 times switching within programs and more than 270 times switching between programs during working hours.

Some people have a strong tendency to distraction

The evaluation revealed the correlation that the shorter the attention span, the higher the level of neuroticism and the stronger the impulsivity among users. Stress also shortens attention span. It was interesting that apparently shorter sleep times correlated with increased attention. The authors attributed this to deadline prere. When asked about deadlines, it became clear that attention increased as the number of daily tasks to be completed increased. However, the authors were not able to clarify whether this is sustainable.

The result could be exploited by employers to increase work prere and stress in order to increase productivity. But even if there is such a connection, which is not due to other factors such as pay, career prospects or the prevailing work culture in the company, it is by no means certain that longer concentration also brings better results. However, the authors stated that, according to the subjects’ opinions on productivity, shorter attention spans are associated with lower productivity. The "switching" have costs.

In any case, the authors conclude from their findings that there is an inherent tendency to distraction in some people to a greater or lesser degree, which is attributed to a lack of control. Lack of concentration or. The rapid jumping of attention would then not be associated with digital media alone, but also the result of an increased willingness to be distracted. However, learning programs and games could be tailored to different attention patterns, and virtual agents could be used to manage interruptions for easily distracted people in order to increase their attention span. This corresponds to the tendency to want to compensate the consequences of technical systems with new technical systems.

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