Clifford Nass (Thomas More Storke Professor of Communication, and Professor, by courtesy, of Sociology, of Computer Science, of Education and of Law) spoke earlier this summer at a Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences symposium about his research on media multitasking, which he and Eyal Ophir (M.S. '09) and Anthony Wagner (Professor of Psychology) initiated a few years ago in what became Eyal's master's thesis for Symbolic Systems. Follow-up research done by Nass on media multitasking has also involved Roy Pea (David Jacks Professor of Education and Professor, by courtesy, of Computer Science) and Aman Kumar ('09).
Nass's remarks were reported from this conference that also featured keynote talks by Malcolm Gladwell and the 1998 Symbolic Systems Distinguished Speaker Steven Pinker. From the Stanford Report, July 5, 2012:
"While he discussed the promise held by increasing collaborations with machines, Nass also warned of the brain-ravaging effects of increasing media consumption.
"Companies now create policies that force their employees to multitask," he said. "It's an OSHA problem. It's not safe for people's brains."
Nass has previously shown that media multitasking, such as surfing the Internet while working, results in diminished performance in a number of cognitive tasks.
Consumption of multiple media streams is increasingly popular, Nass explained, and seems to be tied to a desire to be distracted – a desire that makes people drop their work as soon as a new email comes in.
"There's a personality associated with heavy multitaskers," he said. "They tend to believe that new things are better than old things. Of course, with emails there's no evidence of that. The vast majority of emails are stupid.""
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