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Can you multitask?


Multitasking refers to executing or dealing with more than one task at the same time (usually a short period). An example can be chatting while cooking dinner, typing an email during a meeting, reading a book while listening to a favorite song or ...Read More


~Posted on May 2019

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Can you multitask?

Multitasking refers to executing or dealing with m...

Multitasking refers to executing or dealing with more than one task at the same time (usually a short period). An example can be chatting while cooking dinner, typing an email during a meeting, reading a book while listening to a favorite song or even texting while walking. It’s apparent that doing one thing at a time in the contemporary world is downright luxurious and wasteful. However, due to human context switching, multitasking can result in time wastage as well as more errors due to insufficient attention. Several studies have demonstrated that it’s impossible to focus on more than one task at a particular time. However, if an individual is proficient at one of the tasks they’re handling, then it might be possible to multitask. Personally, I’ve grown up knowing that women can multitask better than men. This idea has also been popularized not only in conventional thought but also in the media.  However, when I looked into the matter, I found out that there was very little data available to support these claims. Most studies that have found any sex differences in multitasking have found that the differences are not only small but also inconsistent.

I don’t think I’m so good at multitasking like some of my friends. The reason for this is that there are tasks that I can’t just handle simultaneously. For me, it might be simple to chat while walking or even receive a call while driving but I can’t read and understand a sentence when my favorite song is playing. I also noticed listening to music and eating or drinking beverages is simple while driving. This is probably because walking and eating are routine tasks that I perform on a daily basis. When I tried to put my ability to multitask on a test by carrying out the activity on page 139, I proved my suspicions were right. I first read pages 141 and 142 in silence and with full attention. I realized I could easily remember and write down on paper most of the relevant texts I read from the two pages without looking up for more words. I later resumed to reading pages 143 and 144 while playing my favorite music group. I realized reading the texts was more difficult, and I ended up rereading sentences because I could hardly concentrate. When it came down to writing on the piece of paper, I could not even construct full sentences. In a nutshell, I grasped less key points, fewer research findings, fewer definitions and fewer concepts on page 143 and 144 than on pages 141and 142.Attention is essential to hold information in working memory and move this information to long-term memory thus learning (Wickens and McCarley). Therefore, since my attention was divided when I played music, I could not exercise focused awareness. Neither could I learn.

As I mentioned earlier, some tasks are easier to multitask than others. It’s easier to multitask when doing a routine task and especially when doing it simultaneously with a mental task that is not demanding such as watching or listening. Driving usually needs us to coordinate lots of different information at once. For instance, we have to judge the distance accurately, watch the road, abide by the traffic laws, speed of other objects, etc. While driving, never chat on the phone, get distracted by kids, doze off, get distracted by the radio, dressing or undressing, or use social media. Also, surfing the web, watching television, listening to music, using email, instant messaging, talking on phone and social sites like Facebook are very destructive when it comes to reading. This is mainly because the lapses of attention and aspects of situation awareness are closely related and therefore losing attention would be destructive (Wickens and McCarley).


Reply 1

There’s some truth in defining multitasking as switching back and forth between two or multiple tasks very rapidly. However, to me, this is just a description of your first sentence that you just disapproved. Indeed, multitasking is performing two or more tasks at the same time. This is true even according to my research. In reference to my first piece, I wrote that doing one thing at a time in the modern world is considered downright luxurious and wasteful. There’ so much work in college and this is perhaps why you mentioned that college has given you instances to perfect the “skill” of multitasking. The problem, however, is that you might not be as effective in multitasking as you think. The reason for this, according to my research is that multitasking can result in many errors and time wastage due to insufficient attention. Human context switching can, therefore, be rendered ineffective. Moreover, several studies have shown that it’s impossible to focus on more than one task at a particular time.

I also noticed that you mentioned that you engage in conversations, eat or drink when driving. I would say this kind of multitasking is significantly influenced by your proficiency in performing these daily tasks. Earlier on, I wrote that it might be possible to multitask if you are proficient at one of the tasks you’re handling. Obviously, eating, drinking and talking are some of these daily or routine tasks that we do on a daily basis. Since you’re a music major and you’ve made listening to music a routine, reading while listening to music does not destruct you as much as it destructs me.

 

Reply 2: Aisha Johnson

It’s true to say that there’s no big issue with multi-tasking as long as it doesn’t endanger anyone’s life. Second, I would concur with you that we have to concentrate on one task at hand at a time so as to work optimally and achieve the best results. Indeed, focused awareness allows us to perform our best when performing tasks that require undivided attention. For instance, driving requires fixed attention. Therefore, distractions while driving might perhaps result in a road accident.  Hence it’s logic to say that it’s not advisable to multitask while driving because not only is the driver risking his or her life but the passengers are also in danger.

I also agree that multitasking can lead to divided consciousness which leads to lack of efficacy since one activity will demand more attention than the other. This is why I could also barely concentrate when I tried listening to music while reading the book while I performed best when it was quiet. Just like you, my brain is more focused and relaxed when nothing can interfere with my studying. Perhaps if listening to music was a routine thing to me, it would have been easier. I also do open tabs on a computer when researching while typing answers on Microsoft word or notepad. Most probably, this switching on and off on the computer is easier to me because I often spend much time on my computer, mostly when doing assignments. I would say we’re pretty much sailing on the same boat.







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