Dear Grandparenting: My grandkids would have us believe they can perform magic. They can do two or three or maybe even four things at once! Without hurting their performance!
They call it multitasking. I call it hogwash. Neuroscience professionals say it’s just not happening. The brain struggles to pay attention to two things at once, much less three or four. Those are the facts.
And there is a cost for thinking multi-tasking works, a decrease in efficiency, production and such. When you take on several tasks simultaneously, each takes longer and the results suffer.
I wish you would weigh in on this. My grandkids are convinced that technology made them smarter so it can’t be bad. I say the brain science is 100% on my side. Carol Bello, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Dear Carol: Since you’re right about the science we’ll cut to the quick. Do we think people can multitask? Sure. Do we think people can multitask well? No. Do we think multi-tasking is counter-productive? Yes.
That’s your answer, but it’s a little more complicated. Scientists have been bashing multitasking for a while now, but the myth of its desirability persists. Multitasking is largely a technology driven phenomenon, and nobody embraces technology like America’s youth.
Ever tried talking on the phone while driving? Notice how quickly your mind can wander off and distract you? It’s downright scary. Combining tasks like eating while reading is doable because they don’t burden the brain.
But with more complex jobs, the entire operation dumbs down as the brain flips between tasks, changing focus in as little as 1/10 of a second, an incessant stopping and starting that robs the brain of its ability to learn or comprehend.
Many grandchildren regard multitasking as a badge of honor or a necessity, their ticket to ride in our competitive global economy. Research confirms that about 2% of the population is endowed with a genetic gift that allows them to multitask effectively.
The rest of us are kidding ourselves. According to researchers, individuals of the opinion they are the best multitaskers are in fact usually among the worst.
Grand remark of the week
Tom Rivers from The Villages, Florida reports on changes brought on by the birth of 14-month old grandson Thomas:
“A baby boy has a way of making a man out of his father,” wrote Tom, “and a way of turning his grandfather into a little boy once again.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.