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Chronic Media Multi-Tasking Makes It Harder to Focus
Date:8/24/2009

Study found those who did it a lot fared worse on tests of concentration

MONDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- 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.

Processing multiple streams of information from different sources of media is a challenge for the human brain, according to a study published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New 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.

"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. "The ability to process a second stream of information is really limited."

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, or the process by which the brain directs attention, decides where to allocate mental resources at a given moment and determines what's important from the many bits of information being received.

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.

In the first test, students were asked to determine how the orientation of red rectangles had changed while ignoring blue rectangles. The heavy multi-taskers had a harder time filtering out the useless information.

"The heavy multi-taskers couldn't help paying attention to the blue rectangles and were actually less successfu
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