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Multi-Taskers Often Bad at Multi-Tasking

Last Updated: January 24, 2013.

People who multi-task often lack the ability to do so, while having an inflated sense of their multi-tasking abilities, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in PLOS ONE.

THURSDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- People who multi-task often lack the ability to do so, while having an inflated sense of their multi-tasking abilities, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in PLOS ONE.

David M. Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D., from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues evaluated 310 undergraduate students (aged 18 to 44 years) through questionnaires regarding their multi-tasking abilities, cell phone use while driving, impulsiveness, sensation seeking, and media use. The students were also tested to determine their actual multi-tasking ability.

The researchers found that those who were best at multi-tasking were not those who were most likely to perform tasks simultaneously. Greater reported multi-tasking was observed among those with higher impulsivity and sensation seeking. Those who multi-tasked more by using cell phones while driving or using multiple media had an inflated sense of their multi-tasking abilities but in reality lacked these abilities.

"The results indicate that the persons who chronically multi-task are not those who are the most capable of multi-tasking effectively," Sanbonmatsu and colleagues conclude. "The findings suggest that people often engage in multi-tasking because they are less able to block out distractions and focus on a singular task."

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