Multitasking and study

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Information about Multitasking and study

Published on February 6, 2014

Author: jasondenys



Can you effectively study while texting or listening to music?

What does science say about multi-tasking?

In an experiment involving 62 undergraduate students taking an accounting course, half of the group was allowed to text during a lecture and half had their phones turned off… These studies and more from:'s-Proof-They-Can't.aspx

After the lecture both groups took the same quiz and the students who texted scored significantly lower on the quiz. Ellis, Y., Daniels, W. and Jauregui, A. (2010). The effect of multitasking on the grade performance of business students. Research in Higher Education Journal, 8

Students taking a general psychology course were asked to read on a computer a 3,828 word passage. One group used instant messaging before they started reading, another group used instant messaging while they were reading and a third group read without instant messaging.

The group that used instant messaging while they read took between 22 and 59% longer to read the passage than students in the other two groups… …and that was after the time spent instant messaging was subtracted from the reading times. Bowman, L. L., Levine, L. E., Waite, B. M. and Dendron, M. (2010). Can students really multitask? An experimental study of instant messaging while reading. Computers & Education, 54, 927-931.

A name has been coined for this problem: Continuous Partial Attention Syndrome

Yes, sadly, this applies to listening to music while you study

Students were given a test in five different scenarios– 1. A quiet environment 2. With “steady state” speech. This means a single word (in this case, “three”) was repeated for the duration of the test 3. With “changing state” speech. This means a variety of words (in this case, random digits from 1-9) were played during the test 4. With “liked” music, meaning a song of the students choice (such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, or Arcade Fire). Students brought in their own music, the only requirement was that it had to have vocals 5. With “disliked” music, which in this case was a metal song called “Thrashers” by Death Angel (all students in the study disliked metal)

The results found no significant difference between test scores with liked music, disliked music, and changing state speech. In other words, whether students enjoyed the music or not, having it on while they worked was just as distracting as hearing someone talk. Scores were significantly higher for tests taken in a quiet environment or with steady-state speech.

The brains of the students listening to the steadystate speech were able to tune it out in the same way that your brain can tune out the whir of an air-conditioner or the hum of traffic.

As a student, how can you stop your attention from being divided while doing homework? Think!

1) Turn off the TV while you study Have separate TV time

2) Nominate your study block of time each night and leave your phone with someone else* while you study. *Locked! Of Course!

3) No Music! You’re not really listening to it properly anyway. If you are, you aren’t working and everything will take longer.

4) If you don’t need the internet for your work, pull the cable, or turn off your WiFi to remove temptation. If you do need the internet, allocate 5 minutes every half hour for FB, Tumblr, whatever. Be tough on yourself and make it routine.

5) Other ideas?

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