Multitasking? It’s a trap. Although we are led to think that “doing more things at the same time” is the solution to our obsessive race against time, in reality a lot of research shows that multitasking does nothing but make us less efficient.
You may not consider them so intelligent, yet there is something pigeons beat us in: doing multiple things at once. A group of cognitive neuroscientists has organized a multitasking challenge between men and feathered animals, to understand how it is possible that the small brain of some birds can rival that of mammals in certain cases.
The study was published in Current Biology and humans (for the record) lost that race: just a little, but you know how to say it, the second is the first of the losers.
Find The Differences
The cerebral cortex of mammals, long considered the origin of our cognitive qualities, is made up of six cell layers. In birds there is nothing similar, but their neurons are more densely “packed” than those of the human cerebral cortex: pigeons have six times more neurons per cubic millimeter than we do.
As a result, the distance between nerve cells is halved compared to the human brain: since the transmission speed is the same, the researchers hypothesized that the processing of information takes place in pigeons faster than in humans.
To The Test
To test the hypothesis, they put 15 humans and 12 pigeons into the race, “asking” both groups to quickly switch from one task to another. In one case, the transition from one job to the next occurred immediately; in another, with a delay of 300 milliseconds.
- Falling into the trap of multitasking is easy: we do it all, every day. You have certainly happened to talk to someone on the phone and at the same time to write an email. But this does not mean to be more productive. It means doing more things wrong, and consequently wasting time because in the end you will have to do them again.
- Many recent studies have in fact shown that multitasking can cost us between 20 and 40% of our time , depending on what we are trying to do. Because? Because in reality we are not able to really focus on multiple tasks at the same time, so if we do this the quality of our work gets worse. Yet sometimes we manage to enter multitasking mode and get good results. This is only possible in two cases:
- When one of the two activities we are doing is so familiar to us that it is now automatic (like walking or chewing gum chewing)
When the activities we do simultaneously involve different areas of the brain
When you talk to someone and in the meantime write an email you are doing two actions that involve communication. You will never be able to do both effectively and clearly: the two tasks come into conflict because they involve the same area of the brain, which is overloaded with information. So in the end you will end up with an email full of errors, or with your interlocutor who keeps asking you if you are listening to him.Get more factual stories like these now.