Monday, 4 February 2013

Studies Confirm that Multitasking, Such As Driving And Texting, Affects Performance

Zheng Wang, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, has conducted considerable research on multitasking. One study she conducted in 2012 indicated that multitasking hurts performance, but makes people feel better.  “There’s this myth among some people that multitasking makes them more productive,” according to Wang.  She noted that “they seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”

The study appears in the Journal of Communication.

Another study she conducted in 2012 has significant implications for distracted drivers.  Her research indicated that trying to do two visual tasks at once hurt performance in both tasks significantly more than combining a visual and an audio task.  So a driver who is texting on their phone is likely more “impaired” than if they were speaking on their phone.  They are both dangerous but the research showed that texting is much more dangerous.

But what’s really scary is that when people who tried to do two visual tasks at the same time were asked to rate their performance they rated themselves as better than those who combined a visual and an audio task.  In fact, their actual performance was worse.

The study appears in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Another recent study showed that those who frequently multitask are actually bad at it.  The study by Professor David Strayer and  Professor David Sanbonmatsu, both at Utah University, shows that people who frequently talk on their cellphone while driving are probably the ones who shouldn’t be doing it.  Their perception is that they are good at multitasking.

The study indicated that those who scored highest on the ability to multitask tended not to engage in it because they were more able to focus attention on what they are doing.

Their study is available on an online journal PLOS ONE.

Recently a woman distracted by a text fell feet-first into a frozen canal in Birmingham — and the entire incident was caught on tape by one of England's many CCTV cameras. This vividly illustrates have difficult it is to multitask.  What would have been the outcome has she been driving instead of walking?

So what is this all mean?  Distracted drivers are a greater hazard than they realize.  They do not believe that texting or talking on their phone impairs their driving ability and those who are worst at doing both are actually more likely to multitask.

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