Posts Tagged ‘Multi-tasking’

Are the Stereotypes True: The Effects of Divided Attention Declines in Older Adults on Every Day Activities

November 14th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever seen a meme or a video that depicts older adults not being able to drive, not being able to walk, not being able to remember things, or not being able to focus. These types of media are very present in our lives today, and are reflective of many of the stereotypes that surround older adults in our society today. But, have you ever taken a second to think about why these stereotypes exist, and why we are so quick to believe them? In other words, are there actually age-related changes or declines that older adults are experiencing that impact their ability to walk, drive, remember, or perform any other daily function, or is it just stereotyping of older adults that create these perceptions in our minds about how older adults perform on these tasks? Research about cognitive aging has provided us with insight into how our brain and cognitive functioning changes as a result of getting older, and how this in turn influences performance on a daily basis as we age. The field of cognitive aging is very wide, and research encompasses a wide variety of topics, including memory, perception, attention, language, prior knowledge, and much more. Additionally, a wide variety of theories have been carefully developed and researched to provide explanations for the declines that we see in older adults as they age. Although everyday functions for older adults such as driving, walking or memory could be influenced by declines in a wide variety of areas, present research about divided attention declines in older adults provide significant insight into how decline in divided attention impacts a variety of every day functions for older adults.

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Let’s Talk About Your Feelings: They Change How You See the World

April 24th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever been so stressed about an upcoming assignment that it’s all you can think about? Consumed with procrastination, you find yourself thinking about it while eating dinner with your friends—what were you talking about again? You were too busy thinking about your calculus midterm. If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: imagine relaxing in your home, making dinner, and watching television, when you see a cockroach scamper across your kitchen floor (eek!). If you’re like me, you would jump on the table and become all-consumed with how to get rid of the intruder. In your preoccupation, you severely burn the chicken you were cooking for dinner.

Our emotions are mentally taxing! (source)

While I can’t save your spoiled meal or ensure a good grade on your exam, I can explain the origins of the narrow-mindedness we experience when we are stressed or scared. Let’s talk about an idiom for a second. When you are stressed out, a cognitive psychologist might say that you “can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, you’ve become too focused on the details to see the bigger picture. You have a paper due tomorrow, but you spent all day deciding what font to use.

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Why You Should Stop Multitasking…Right Now

December 5th, 2020 No comments

Multitasking is often thought of as a magical tool that will help people be more productive.

About ten years ago the Internet became flooded with articles about multitasking and its potential benefits for productivity and time management. Now and then you can stumble upon articles, written for entrepreneurs, employers, or people who want to increase their productivity, promoting multitasking. A lot of people face the issue of not having enough time due to the fast pace of modern life, having a lot of commitments, or not being good at time management, so they choose to multitask, hoping it would allow them to save some time. However, what people don’t realize is that multitasking can be harmful, both for the quality of their work and their productivity.

Attention is a limited resource so if we multitask, we have to divide it between the tasks.

What is exactly multitasking? Cognitive psychologists define multitasking as performing multiple tasks while constantly switching between them. A key feature of multitasking is that a person focuses on each task over a short time span (Oswald et al., 2007). Multitasking can take a lot of forms: it can be listening to a podcast while walking, watching a TV show while doing your homework, or texting while driving. Some tasks mix well, like listening to a podcast while you are walking because walking is an automatic process that does not require a lot of cognitive resources. However, most of the time it is impossible for us to focus on two tasks simultaneously, especially if both of them are controlled processes, which require a lot of attentional resources, so we have to divide our attention between them, which comes at a cost.


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What was I saying? Oh, right, Absent-mindedness…

April 26th, 2018 No comments

It’s a Saturday night. You come home early to catch your favorite TV show. You’re in such a hurry that you throw your keys somewhere carelessly. When it’s time to go out, you can’t remember where you put your keys. It’s not at the regular spot where you usually place your keys. It takes a long time for you to find them. Does this seem familiar? When things like this happen, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with your mind. In fact, it is a common phenomenon called absent-mindedness.

Absent-mindedness is a cognitive bias that happens when people “zone out” and make mistakes in daily life (Broadbent, Cooper, FitzGerald, & Parkes, 1982). The mistakes can be anything related to a lack of attention, e.g., walking in a room and forgetting why you came in, dropping something unintentionally, or throwing your phone in a trash can and keeping the coffee cup (which happened to me once). Absent-mindedness is where attention and memory come together, even though they seem to be two separate things.

How is absent-mindedness related to attention? Before answering this question, we need to know that our attention has a limited capacity (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). One theory suggests that when our limited attentional resource is occupied, the rate of absent-mindedness may increase (Fisher & Hood, 1987). This means that if you are talking to a friend while walking down the street and paying little attention to your surroundings, you might end up bumping into someone if that person is being absent-minded as well!
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Playing Video Games Will Help Your Grades……Maybe

November 24th, 2015 5 comments



What comes to mind when you hear the word “gamer”? For non-gamers this term is often accompanied with a negative stigma. For some people, you might envision an average person, someone who studies hard in school or works a nine to five job while enjoying video games in their down time. But for others, many will associate this word with someone who lives in their parent’s basement, lacks social skills, has a diet consisting of Doritos and coke, and hardly sees the light of day. Some people may even think back to the time they saw that YouTube video of a “gamer” freaking out and breaking their TV or keyboard via a rage infused “gronk” spike. If you don’t know what a gronk spike is, click here.

In the modern age, because of how large of an influence technology plays in our daily lives, this negative stigma seems to be fading as more and more people are playing video games. However, spending hours a day playing is still often viewed as unproductive and wasted time. But what if I were to tell you that playing video games, specifically first person shooter games (FPS), could increase a person’s attentional capacity- the amount of information that a person can attend to at any given moment, the processing of peripheral information, and ability to multitask? To start, I’d bet there would be a lot of kids rushing to their parents defending their hours of play video games in hopes of being allowed to spend more time playing. I can envision the conversation now: Read more…

Categories: Attention Tags: ,

A Tip on How to Improve Your Focus: Turn Your Cell Phone on Silent

November 24th, 2015 6 comments

NotificationHave you ever worked on a homework assignment with your cell phone near you so that you can hear when you get a notification?  I know I have.  Cell phone use has become widespread in today’s society.  Everywhere you go, you see people with cell phones in their hands, and they commonly try to use their cell phones as they do something else.  You might see someone looking down at a cell phone while driving, texting while chatting with a friend, and scrolling through a social media app while doing homework. Research has shown that the use of cell phones during a concurrent task can be very distracting and can impair performance on that task, but what about when you receive a notification and do not check or respond to it?

Many people carry their phones with them almost everywhere they go.  For example, you might bring your cell phone to class and store it in your pocket, or leave your cell phone lying on your desk while you work on a homework assignment.  So what happens when you hear a ring or feel vibrations from your cell phone, alerting you that you’ve received a notification?  Does it affect your attention?  Does simply getting a notification on your cell phone, without checking it, have a cost to your attention?  Researchers Stothart, Mitchum, and Yehnert (2015) conducted a study to examine this question.

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Working Memory and Individual Differences: Attention Like You’ve Never Seen It Before!

December 13th, 2013 3 comments

Have you ever tried to keep up with your day by switching between all the things you have to do? Of course you have. Multi-tasking and even just trying to focus our attention on one out of the million stimuli in the modern world are just part of everyone’s lives. The system that makes this possible is called working memory. Working memory is what takes in all the stimuli of the environment, organizes it, attends to it, and decides whether to rehearse or try to remember the information or whether it simply should be thrown away and forgotten.

Working memory is made up of 4 main parts. First off there are the two “slave systems.” These are the visuo-spatial sketchpad and the phonological loop. These are basic holding areas for incoming stimuli, the visuo-spatial sketchpad holds visual information such as maps, while the phonological loop deals with stimuli such as read words, numbers, or auditory stimuli. These segments simply take in the information, it is up to the other systems to choose what happens to that raw input. Read more…

Categories: Attention, Memory Tags:

Cell phone use, driving, and limited attention

March 11th, 2013 No comments

distracted driving

Attention is a finite resource (Kahneman, 1973) and most cognitive activities – talking, remembering, carrying on a conversation – require some amount of these  limited resources. This means, from a practical perspective, that there is a limit to the number of tasks in which we can concurrently engage. Multi-tasking, or attempting to perform multiple tasks at once, generally results in poorer performance on all tasks. Experimental evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that talking on a cell phone while driving – in a simulator, of course!) results in marked impairment in braking times, detecting road signals, and maintaining a safe distance from other cars (Strayer & Johnston, 2001; Strayer & Drews, 2007). The degree of impairment can be comparable to the impairment in driving observed when one drives under the influence of alcohol (Strayer, Drews, & Crouch, 2006) and measures of brain activity show decreased reactivity to traffic signals while talking on a phone (Strayer, Drews, & Johnston, 2003).

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