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Thread: Multitasking... is just an illusion, but apparently a useful illusion

  1. #1
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    Exclamation Multitasking... is just an illusion, but apparently a useful illusion

    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-...ng-boosts.html

    The illusion of multitasking boosts performance

    November 13, 2018, Association for Psychological Science

    Our ability to do things well suffers when we try to complete several tasks at once, but a series of experiments suggests that merely believing that we're multitasking may boost our performance by making us more engaged in the tasks at hand. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    "Multitasking is often a matter of perception or can even be thought of as an illusion," explains researcher Shalena Srna of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. "Regardless of whether people actually engage in a single task or multiple tasks, making them perceive this activity as multitasking is beneficial to performance."

    Evidence suggests that humans are actually incapable of paying attention to multiple tasks at the same timeŚwe may think that we're multitasking, but we're actually switching back and forth between tasks.


    MY TAKE: It is impossible to pay complete attention to more than one thing, the brain simply cannot do it, though we CAN notice things peripherally (if not very well). Multitasking is not a real thing, but if believing in it makes you better at your work (which I did not expect), go for it. You're still not really multitasking, but who cares.

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    I think people don't have enough limbs to do any provable multitasking. We can do things that are passive like sing or listen while doing another task, but that is about it. I can draw with two pencils or paint with two brushes, but that's not quite multitasking. Although I can work on different parts of the same media, if I was working in a tiny space, people would merely note that I am doing "detail work" with two necessary tools. I would imaging that if I tried to draw and write math questions at the same time, the result would be bad.

    I had a friend who could do incredible renditions of show tunes while coding, it doesn't seem like true multitasking.
    Solfe

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    With Asperger's, I'm constitutionally a mono-tasker. It takes considerable mental effort for me to "shift gears" and focus on another thing. If someone talks to me while I'm doing something, I have to consciously set aside what I'm doing and interpret what I' m being told.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Most people can drive, a motor task, excuse the pun, and converse at the same time provided the data flow rate is not high. Translators can hear, understand, translate and speak at the same time, that four separate tasks, But it seems that as one task gets harder, others are dropped. A different measure is holding parallel concepts while looking for a solution. I believe this is in the range four to seven.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    With Asperger's, I'm constitutionally a mono-tasker. It takes considerable mental effort for me to "shift gears" and focus on another thing. If someone talks to me while I'm doing something, I have to consciously set aside what I'm doing and interpret what I' m being told.
    Yes, though I've not been diagnosed with Asperger's. The end result for me is the same: tight focus on task, extreme difficulty shifting gears to handle interruptions, performance crash or freeze with any sustained noise or background annoyance.

    Despite the appearance of being able to multitask, it really boils down to paying MOST attention to one thing (speaking, high mental processing), with SOME attention going to a well-practiced tracking skill (driving). You might arrive at a destination with the uncomfortable feeling you don't remember how you got there, but you know all about Bob's trouble with his parents. You might also crash into the back of a pickup truck. It's a risk.

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    I can't be bothered searching down the original paper, but we really need to know some details of the subjects studied.
    If anyone ever tried to give me the impression I was multitasking, I'd stop what I was doing in order to make it clear to them that I was not. I'm a serial monotasker, and I find it difficult to take "multitaskers" seriously.

    "Ah, so you think it's a good idea to give your partial attention to several jobs? Thank you. Next candidate, please."

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Evidence suggests that humans are actually incapable of paying attention to multiple tasks at the same time—we may think that we're multitasking, but we're actually switching back and forth between tasks.
    This is an unusual definition, in my opinion.

    I don't interpret multitasking as literally doing multiple tasks at the same time, I interpret as meaning switching between tasks at arbitrary points.

    Mono-tasking, by contrast, would be switching between tasks at logical major breaks. This has the effect of lowering the amount of overhead required to return to the previous state.

    Mono-tasking:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 A B C D E F G

    Multi-tasking:
    1 A 2 B 3 C 4 D 5 E 6 F 7 G

    Multi-tasking requires you to store the states of where you were when you switched last. That's overhead. Mono-tasking eliminates the overhead. It takes virtually zero brain cycles to only start at 1 and at A.

    That overhead is expensive. (Try it. Time yourself speaking the two tasks above out loud. The multi-tasking will take significantly longer than the mono-tasks.)


    In real life, to multi-task, you vacuum half the house, then go dust. You must switch tasks - and remember that the house is only half vacuumed, and where you left off.
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2018-Nov-14 at 07:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    In real life, to multi-task, you vacuum half the house, then go dust. You must switch tasks - and remember that the house is only half vacuumed, and where you left off.
    I think that's just serial hemi-tasking.
    If you look at people who say they are multitasking, they're actually task switching, as you describe, but with a rapid switching rate. So they're "simultaneously" vacuuming and moving money between bank accounts on their phone, while watching the TV news. In fact, they're flipping their attention around between the three tasks, neglecting two at a time while doing the third. They can have the illusion of multitasking so long as the task switching is rapid, but as soon as something requires a little more cognitive resource, they neglect the other two for long enough for the gap to become evident.

    Grant Hutchison

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    This is very interesting. I tend to generally agree we do not multi-task. But,

    What if I am playing guitar, coordinating my hands and voice, feeling pain in my fingers and feeling it's cold and damp and I'm watching TV and thinking of bills. Is this not multi-tasking? Don't most task involve a concurrence of tasks?

    What about the brain's architecture (of which I know little), is there not much parallel activity? This may support notions of multi-tasking.

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    Mono-tasking:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 A B C D E F G

    Multi-tasking:
    1 A 2 B 3 C 4 D 5 E 6 F 7 G
    I have spent more then 40 years in software development, and find that BOTH are multi tasking/ multi threading. In computing all multi task/threading/processing is just an illusion

    I'd also say that all medical doctors multi task as they move between patients before patients cured. The doc is working on the cures of many patients at the same time.

    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by holmes4 View Post
    I'd also say that all medical doctors multi task as they move between patients before patients cured. The doc is working on the cures of many patients at the same time.
    I assure you that's just serial monotasking. The medical records provide off-line storage.

    With expert performance, and a single sick patient, medics can give the impression of multitasking when performing multiple complex tasks. In emergency surgery, for instance, I used to be able to monitor the physiology, the anaesthesia, the progress of the surgery, other environmental cues, and perform a complex psychomotor task (for instance, inserting a central venous line) "simultaneously" - that is, I was doing all that stuff well in real time.
    But it was all a combination of various expert performances - I had spent enough time monitoring physiology and anaesthesia that I acquired the relevant information in big chunks of data, very quickly; I had inserted enough central lines that I could perform many of the tasks subconsciously; and that left me task-switching between three "easy" options, with only extremely intermittent checks on the surgery and environment. We tried to avoid that sort of thing, because it can go wrong very quickly if one task becomes complex. But it was possible in an emergency situation when no assistance was available. At its best, you could enter Csikszentmihalyi's "flow state" for all five tasks - it all seems effortless, and you feel like you have time to spare, despite the excrement hitting a number of fans all around you. I used to whistle "Ode To Joy" at these moments, but there was nevertheless a very clear consciousness of task-switching, all the time, sometimes for hours on end, and you found yourself utterly exhausted when you came down out of the flow.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by 7cscb View Post
    This is very interesting. I tend to generally agree we do not multi-task. But,

    What if I am playing guitar, coordinating my hands and voice, feeling pain in my fingers and feeling it's cold and damp and I'm watching TV and thinking of bills. Is this not multi-tasking? Don't most task involve a concurrence of tasks?

    What about the brain's architecture (of which I know little), is there not much parallel activity? This may support notions of multi-tasking.
    No output, no multitasking. No task was really completed, except perhaps the singing and playing. The question is, is singing and playing two tasks or parts of one task?
    Solfe

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    The president of our company recently left a meeting saying, "I have to multitask, please update me with notes about anything else that I need to know about". I chose not to tell him that switching from the current task (participating in a meeting) to leaving to do whatever other task he needed to address was precisely the opposite of multitasking...
    Conserve energy. Commute with the Hamiltonian.

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    Time slice multitasking, an ancient and honored method of getting things done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by holmes4 View Post
    I have spent more then 40 years in software development, and find that BOTH are multi tasking/ multi threading. In computing all multi task/threading/processing is just an illusion
    Then I guess I have explained my analogy poorly.

    In the mono-tasking scenario, one needs not store any intermediate states at all. One need only start at the start values.

    In the multi-tasking scenario, one must store the current state, then switch, find the other current state, and resume from there, then at some point, stop and store the new state.

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    The term is derived from computer multitasking, and for each CPU core, multitasking is a bit of fakery. It's actually a series of single-tasking runs with context switching to get to the next task. Our psychological multitasking is much like that, and we can have trouble doing the necessary context switching.

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