I like to think that I’m relatively good at multi-tasking. For instance, right now, I’m writing this while watching Sunday Night Football. (Sorry, Ross Bolen.). But for some reason, there is one thing that I find it incredibly difficult to multi-task during. No, not that – I’m talking about texting. Or truthfully, doing anything on my phone. You could tell me my hair was on fire and if I’m busy composing the perfect self-depreciating witty tweet, I wouldn’t hear you. And it turns out, science has a reason for it.
A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience last week found that when we focus on a visual task, we can fall victim to “inattentional deafness,” which is our tendency to fail to notice sounds when our mind is focused on something else.
Dr. Maria Chait, a professor of neuroscience at University College London who worked on the study, told The Huffington Post that the study proves that most of us aren’t as good as multi-tasking as we think, particularly when technology is involved. She told the site, “Modern environments are designed with the assumption that providing information through multiple senses simultaneously will help us process more information more efficiently. Our work demonstrates that that this assumption is incorrect.”
The study’s results support the notion that “humans’ sense of hearing and vision relies on the same neural resources, which are limited and may only be available to one type of task at a time” – which is why you don’t hear what your mother is blathering on about when you are watching that video of a cat running away from a cucumber on YouTube at the holiday dinner table.
According to Chait, this “inattentional deafness” also explains our proclivity for walking like complete assholes when we are looking at our phones: “Pedestrians engaging with their phone, for example texting while walking, are also prone to inattentional deafness. Loud sounds such as sirens and horns will be loud enough to get through, but quieter sounds like bicycle bells or car engines are likely to go unheard.” I guess that means I have to raise my voice when I tell you to get the hell out of my way when you meandering along reading this, huh? .
[via The Huffington Post]
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