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Old 05-01-2013, 08:46 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
It is also possible, despite pop-psy articles stating otherwise, to divide your attention between multiple things.
Even walking and chewing gun at the same time?!
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:08 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
It is also possible, despite pop-psy articles stating otherwise, to divide your attention between multiple things.
Well, apparently not everyone ...

Right now I'm watching General Hospital while typing this message. I can't see AJ leaving a message for Nik, but if you ask me in a day or two I'll still be able to remember what the message was about. And I made only one typing error.
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Old 05-02-2013, 10:57 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
It is also possible, despite pop-psy articles stating otherwise, to divide your attention between multiple things.
No, it's not, at least for activities that require higher thought. At best, the brain switches between activities. It's never really paying attention to two or more activities at once. So, if you're driving and talking on a phone, you're brain is either paying attention to driving or carrying a conversation. Whichever is receiving attention, the other is pushed to lower functions ("autopilot").

For example, if you test someone on this by having them drive through a complex, foreign environment that demands full attention while playing a radio broadcast on the stereo, that individual will have poor, if any, recollection of the broadcast, even immediately after the fact, much less hours later.

I'm not saying a person can't do two things at once. Take walking and talking, for example. Walking doesn't require higher brain function; it's fairly automatic (except in complex, challenging environments). The brain is free to attend to the conversation.

NPR: Think You're Multitasking? Think Again

Last edited by darkeconomist; 05-02-2013 at 11:08 AM.. Reason: Added NPR story
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:38 PM
 
Location: Vallejo
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Driving isn't exactly a complex task, however. Just like walking, driving only requires actual though when a situation that's out of the ordinary arises. The problem is that talking or listening while driving/walking you're less likely notice the unusual situation. You basically get tunnel vision, delayed response time, and a tendency to look through objects without really seeing them. MRI scans highlighting brain activity show that pretty well. No matter how much people think they are paying attention while yacking on the cell phone and walking/driving down the street, the fact is they are compromised to a pretty high degree.
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:42 PM
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Location: Foot of the Rockies
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I agree that "multitasking" is a misnomer for the most part. But in the situation I described above, driving from Denver to Pittsburgh, much of that drive is on I-80 across the Great Plains and midwest. You don't have to intensely concentrate on your driving. You don't go through many cities. You can easily listen to a book, a song, talk raido, whatever.
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Old 05-02-2013, 03:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
I agree that "multitasking" is a misnomer for the most part. But in the situation I described above, driving from Denver to Pittsburgh, much of that drive is on I-80 across the Great Plains and midwest. You don't have to intensely concentrate on your driving. You don't go through many cities. You can easily listen to a book, a song, talk raido, whatever.
True. Your specific example and my general statement can coexist because we're both making the same point that Malloric just did; in easy situations, the brain doesn't focus on driving, and is free to focus on other things (in your case, audiobooks), though this may mean that the driver is not only open to danger, but may not be aware of the danger until after the fact, if at all.
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Old 05-02-2013, 03:58 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 15 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Originally Posted by darkeconomist View Post
True. Your specific example and my general statement can coexist because we're both making the same point that Malloric just did; in easy situations, the brain doesn't focus on driving, and is free to focus on other things (in your case, audiobooks), though this may mean that the driver is not only open to danger, but may not be aware of the danger until after the fact, if at all.
We made that trip at least a half dozen times; also, we've driven from Denver to Omaha and back at least once a year for the past 32 years. We've done a combination of the above. One time, we stopped in a Walmart in some little town in Nebraska to buy some new CDs b/c we were sick of listening to the ones we had (on the way home). Never been in an accident.
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Old 05-02-2013, 09:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkeconomist View Post
No, it's not, at least for activities that require higher thought. At best, the brain switches between activities. It's never really paying attention to two or more activities at once.
The idea that the executive function is strictly single-thread is not quite as well-established as the press would have you believe. In any case, as we've proven for decades with computers, if you can task-switch fast enough you can provide the appearance of simultaneity.

Yes, a perfect example of the nonsense pop-psy "study" on multitasking. If you look a little deeper you'll find that they measured single-task performance and said "Aha, people who think they can multitask are bad at it, because their single-task performance was worse than those who don't think they can multitask". This is obviously invalid. Nobody, as far as I know, makes the claim that multitasking does not degrade performance on any given one of the tasks.
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Old 05-03-2013, 02:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nybbler View Post
The idea that the executive function is strictly single-thread is not quite as well-established as the press would have you believe. In any case, as we've proven for decades with computers, if you can task-switch fast enough you can provide the appearance of simultaneity.
But people cannot switch quickly. Your point on computers is true, generally, but irrelevant for the specific situation.

And, some people (anecdotal, I know) really do say things along the lines of "I can multitask just fine" (or "I can talk and drive"). People really do believe they can multitask "without degradation."

As to your point on the media (which implied a comparison to actual research), I'm not willing or able to do a study to compare how often the media says we cannot (in the last, say, 25 years) vs. what studies have said during that same time period. And I doubt you've done such a study, so let's leave it as each having an opinion based on personal experiences on the matter of media representation.

In which case, I hold that people cannot multitask (okay, some can, but they're truly few and far between and, as outliers, shouldn't weigh upon discussions of the average).
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Old 05-03-2013, 06:26 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 15 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkeconomist View Post
But people cannot switch quickly. Your point on computers is true, generally, but irrelevant for the specific situation.

And, some people (anecdotal, I know) really do say things along the lines of "I can multitask just fine" (or "I can talk and drive"). People really do believe they can multitask "without degradation."

As to your point on the media (which implied a comparison to actual research), I'm not willing or able to do a study to compare how often the media says we cannot (in the last, say, 25 years) vs. what studies have said during that same time period. And I doubt you've done such a study, so let's leave it as each having an opinion based on personal experiences on the matter of media representation.

In which case, I hold that people cannot multitask (okay, some can, but they're truly few and far between and, as outliers, shouldn't weigh upon discussions of the average).
There is a huge difference between actual "mulitasking" and listening to a freaking book on tape!
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