Since my previous rant on multi-tasking, I’ve discovered that the key word I needed to prise this issue open was ‘cognitive load’, which I discovered while monotasking (reading a book on music and psychology). So for those who want a weapon against the tide of pop-psych multit-taskers, read this article from Psychology Matters (Multi-tasking – switching costs). If you can’t be bothered, here’s the important bit:
Understanding the hidden costs of multitasking may help people to choose strategies that boost their efficiency – above all, by avoiding multitasking, especially with complex tasks. (Throwing in a load of laundry while talking to a friend will probably work out all right.) For example, losing just a half second of time to task switching can make a life-or-death difference for a driver on a cell phone traveling at 30 MPH. During the time the driver is not totally focused on driving the car, it can travel far enough to crash into an obstacle that might otherwise have been avoided.
Yes, laundry and phoning = OK. Texting while driving, or a doctor looking at a computer screen while trying to talk to patient = not OK, on many levels. And, actually, even just walking down a crowded street listening to music doesn’t bode well for your ability to see and avoid other humans.