Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

E Pluribus Cacophony

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

E Pluribus Cacophony

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "The Myth of Multitasking" by Christine Rosen, in The New Atlantis, Spring 2008.

ANYONE WHO HAS COWERED in the back of a taxi as the driver simultaneously talked on a cell phone, made change, tore off a paper receipt, and tried to pull into a busy street can attest: Multitasking is a bad idea.

Multitasking no longer defines the brilliant leader or the precocious overachiever, writes Christine Rosen, senior editor of The New Atlantis. In reality, multitasking means paying incomplete attention to two or more tasks at once. Extreme multitasking costs the American economy $650 billion a year in lost productivity, according to one survey. It takes workers distracted by e-mails and phone calls an average of 25 minutes to get back on task after each interruption, another study says.

The proportion of people who almost simultaneously watch television, surf the Web, play video games, text-message, talk on the phone, and e-mail rose from 16 percent in 1999 to 26 percent in 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported two years ago. Media multitasking has spawned a new condition called attention deficit trait, whose symptoms are similar to those of attention deficit disorder, according to a Massachusetts psychiatrist. …

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