US: Media multi-tasking makes it harder to focus

You may think e-mailing, texting, talking on the phone and listening to music all at once is making you more efficient, but new research suggests the opposite is true, writes Jennifer Thomas for the US News & World Report. The research shows that students who did the most multi-tasking were less able to focus and concentrate - even when they were trying to do only one task at a time.

Processing multiple streams of information from different sources of media is a challenge for the human brain, according to a study published in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The human mind is not really built for processing multiple streams of information," said study author Eyal Ophir, a researcher at Stanford University's Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab.

Researchers had 262 college students fill out a questionnaire to determine how often they multi-tasked. Students were then asked to complete a series of tests that measured cognitive control. Students who were at the upper end of the media multi-tasking spectrum performed more poorly on all the tests than those who multi-tasked the least, even though the students had similar overall intelligence, including SAT scores.
Full report on the US News & World Report site