Have You Been Paying Attention?


We all believe that we have great multitasking skills as it’s become very easy to do with access to technology. When we focus on more than two tasks at once the amount of attention and quality of the tasks can diminish. This idea becomes more apparent when talking about using multiple media platforms and different types of technology at one time. A great example of this would be a lecture or tutorial – where people are partially paying attention to the lecturer as they are presenting while surfing Facebook and other media platforms. This kind of multitasking happens frequently within university lectures and tutorials and it’s become quite easy to pick up when it happens.

Overall it can be said that only 5% of us can actually multitask effectively. If you decide to multitask it can, however, come with some negative aspect which can include:

The ability to produce more errors in your work because you aren’t giving your full attention to what you need to do. Mistakes can be made often when doing this and in some cases difficult to pick up after you’ve made them. An example of this would be when writing an assessment, you may be talking to a friend whilst looking a Facebook and also doing research. When your attention is spread so thin it can be difficult to concentrate on the most important thing which would be the assessment. Because of this, you may have grammar issues which lead to you sending in a document which hasn’t been read over properly.

Stress levels can increase as you multitask because you could be overloading your brain with too much information and things to do. This can, in turn, affect your health and even lead to procrastination. A great example of this would be when you leave your assessments to the last-minute but you also have other things you have committed to like work so you won’t be able to work on the assessment for long. This leads to stress and also procrastination as you put things off because thinking about them causes too much stress.

To test these theories out and the process of multitasking I’ve decided to draw out a little experiment on my nine-year-old sister. Now, she doesn’t own a phone or anything but she’s constantly on the computer playing games as well as watching TV and talking to us. You could say that she’s learnt early how to multitask. So within an hour I recorded a number of times she switched between talking to us (and keeping a conversation), watching TV and also playing games on the computer.

So within that hour her main focus was, of course, the computer as it was her main media platform. She looked up to watch the TV at least 20 times and some of them were just a quick glimpse to see what was happening, others were a few good minutes watching. When it came to talking to us it didn’t last very long, she was frequently talking to use until she was distracted by the computer of the TV again. After a while, she didn’t respond to any questions because I think she caught on what I was doing and started ignoring me. I did ask her at the end of my little experiment what the TV show (cartoon) was about and she gave me a vague recount of what was happening, however, she couldn’t give me specific answers when I asked them.

After the experiment was over I told her what I was doing and asked if I could write about it and she gave me her permission. So to refer back to the consequences I wrote about multitasking I have to say that both ‘producing more errors’ and ‘becoming stressed’ where both evident factors. At the start of the experiment, my sister started to make more mistakes when I was talking to her. I would ask her a question and she would respond however sometimes it didn’t come out wrong or she misinterpreted the question. As well as this when she was talking she kept making noises to the computer, which I take as her making mistakes in the game she was playing. This then, in turn, lead to her becoming stressed because she was failing the game and getting frustrated at me because I wouldn’t stop talking to her. As well as this she had very little specific information about the TV show that was on because of the focus being primarily on the computer.

Overall my sister was definitely preoccupied with the different media mediums, and in turn, this did shorten her attention span. Conducting this little experiment has shown that multitasking can be difficult but it also can be done but there are consequences of doing so.



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