The Truth About Multitasking: How Your Brain Processes Information Think you're making the most of your time by writing e-mails as you talk on the phone? Cognitive scientist David Meyer unmasks the illusion behind the counterproductive habit of multitasking.
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It's the gospel of productivity in a maxed-out world: Multitasking helps you get more done faster. The only thing is, it doesn't, says David Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan--where he serves as director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory--and one of the country's leading experts on multitasking.
"When you perform multiple tasks that each require some of the same channels of processing, conflicts will arise between the tasks, and you're going to have to pick and choose which task you're going to focus on and devote a channel of processing to it," he explains.
Meyer has been at the forefront of research for several decades on how the brain processes information and copes with multitasking. He has investigated the brain's speed, accuracy and memory in information processing while working with psychologist David Kieras for the Office of Naval Research. A study Meyer co-wrote on the limitations of multitasking ("Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching") went viral in 2001, setting off the first awareness of the counterproductivity of simultaneous activities.