10% lower IQ when you multi-task Back to list

The attention crisis and how it affects us.

Do you send messages on your mobile device while watching the TV? Do you answer a message while talking to someone or while sitting with your partner in a restaurant? It seems that today’s fast-paced world means that we always need to be connected. But did you know that recent research shows that while you multi-task, your IQ drops by 10%?

Multi-tasking is not doing lots of things at the same time, rather you divert your focus to each task in hand every time you change activity. David Meyer says that you may be 40% less productive than when concentrating on one task because when you switch from one task to another, it takes time to re-focus on the task in hand. Meyer does an interesting demonstration with his 1st year university students to show them that multi-tasking does not pay off. He asks his students to recite the alphabet from A-J and the numbers from 1-10 as fast as possible. Most people take around 5-10 seconds. Then he asks them to mix both sets A-1-B-2-C-3 …, students take approximately 20 seconds to complete the task.

What does this mea02C8044810_lowerIQn for us as teachers, parents and/or students?

In the past, multi-tasking was seen to be a good thing. The person who managed to do lots of things at the same time was more ‘productive’. Nowadays, it is clear that the multi-taskers might not be that efficient. Preparing for the following day while answering messages on your mobile phone will make the task of preparation a much longer one. Why not leave your mobile out of reach until you have finished? Marking student’s work while checking emails? Switch off your email alert or take breaks to check emails at regular intervals. Are you answering messages while sitting at a family meal? What kind of message are you conveying to the young people around you?

Our students use mobile devices on a daily basis and some are connected 24/7, sleeping with their mobiles. For many, the phone is an extension of their arm, always within easy reach, requiring constant attention. Some teens suffer from sleep deprivation because they are answering messages throughout the night. How should parents deal with this? Can schools play a role in educating parents on the importance of sleep in adolescents and finding ways of implementing limited access to phones? Can parents insist on phones being switched off after a certain time at night or even being left outside the bedroom during the week? Are parents being a good role model for their own children?

Today’s technological world offers amazing connections but research shows that this connectedness is taking its toll. The attention crisis is here to stay unless we start doing something about it.

Maria Toth