Munger and Munger - Cognitive Daily 2008

Multi-tasking, task-switching, and humans -- or why I didn't finish writing this post three hours ago
Cognitive Daily post

Greta Munger and Dave Munger

Do you multitask? I'm not talking about literally doing two things at once, like emailing while talking on the phone, or playing the trombone while washing the dishes. I'm talking about the more common phenomenon of starting one project before you're finished with another. For example, after I read the journal article I'll be discussing in this post, I caught up on some email correspondence, ordered a new phone for my office, and ate lunch. Now I'm finally getting around to actually writing the post itself. Why didn't I just read the article and then write my post while it was fresh in my mind? Wouldn't that have been more efficient?

There's actually been much more research about the first kind of multitasking -- truly doing two things at once -- than the second type, which might be better characterized as "task switching." But the second type is no less important. Why is it that people seem to switch frequently between tasks, instead of steadfastly working on one task until it is complete?

(click link for the rest of the article... which is of interest to those who worry about what students are doing during instruction, how to create appropriate small group learning activities, etc.)