From Verena von Pfetten, “Monotasking Gets a Makeover,” NY Times (April 29, 2016):
“…As much as people would like to believe otherwise, humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online, Ms. Zomorodi said, can happen upward of 400 times a day, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study. “That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day,” she said. “You’ve used them all up.”
The term “brain dead” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.”
From Tony Schwartz, “Addicted to Distraction,” NY Times (November 28, 2015):
“…Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. It has arguably replaced work itself as our most socially sanctioned addiction.
According to one recent survey, the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email. That doesn’t count time online spent shopping, searching or keeping up with social media.
The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.”
From Joshua Rothman’s review of The World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (New Yorker; June 2015):
“…distraction is scary for another, complementary reason: the tremendous value that we’ve come to place on attending. The modern world valorizes few things more than attention. It demands that we pay attention at school and at work; it punishes parents for being inattentive; it urges us to be mindful about money, food, and fitness; it celebrates people who command others’ attention. As individuals, we derive a great deal of meaning from the products of sustained attention and concentration—from the projects we’ve completed, the relationships we’ve maintained, the commitments we’ve upheld, the skills we’ve mastered. Life often seems to be “about” paying attention—and the general trend seems to be toward an ever more attentive way of life. Behind the crisis of distraction, in short, there is what amounts to a crisis of attention: the more valuable and in demand attention becomes, the more problematic even innocuous distractions seem to be.”
From Hugh McGuire at Medium.com:
“…It turns out that digital devices and software are finely tuned to train us to pay attention to them, no matter what else we should be doing. The mechanism, borne out by recent neuroscience studies, is something like this:
- New information creates a rush of dopamine to the brain, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.
- The promise of new information compels your brain to seek out that dopamine rush….”
In addition to the NEA studies about reading and the UC San Diego study of information consumption, here is some data from a study of academic performance by college students:
Second there is the Academic Time Use Survey for College Students (more data on Bureau of Labor Statistics website):