Multitasking: When it Works and When it Doesn’t

Gabriel Fortaleza-Tan, Writer

Whether it’s eating while reading or watching YouTube while studying for an upcoming exam, multitasking is a common habit for most. Despite its popularity, studies have shown that multitasking can not only hinder your efficiency on either task but can actually have cognitive repercussions. However, this doesn’t mean that you should never multitask as there are instances where multitasking can improve your performance.

A study done by the University of North Carolina found that multitasking boosts creativity. The study required its participants to complete two complex tasks, half of the study’s participants multitasked while the other half completed one task before moving on to the next. After this, all participants would take a creativity and analytical ability test. The study found that the participants that multitasked were significantly more creative than the ones who didn’t. In addition to this, the students who multitasked showed no impairment in their analytic ability. The study explained that multitasking creates a greater need for our brain’s resources, and because of the higher demand, our brains become more adept at creative thinking. Even with the proven benefits from the studies, the authors of the study warned its readers of the risks that multitasking may have.

While boosted creativity is an added benefit of multitasking, the majority of studies done say that multitasking is bad for us. Contrary to popular belief, multitasking isn’t completing two tasks simultaneously, but is, instead, when our attention quickly shifts from one task to another. Constantly shifting your attention leads to mental blocks which ultimately slow down your work pace. Not only this, but other studies revealed that students who multitask regularly tend to have a lower G.P.A. than those students who don’t.

Studies have shown that technological multitasking can be especially detrimental to younger children. A study done by the University of Chicago found that constant multitasking on electronic devices leads to what they call “brain drain”, where the constant attention shift takes up most of the brain’s resources, causing the user’s focus to weaken.

With the information at hand, it is shown that there are far more negatives to multitasking than there are benefits. Multitasking is best suited for simpler tasks that don’t require a lot of concentration; tasks that require intense concentration should not be multitasked. It is best recommended that multitasking should be kept to a minimum in your daily life.