Improving Multitasking

MindGain improves multitasking by 57%!! What did we test, what did we find and what does this mean for you?

An Overview of Multitasking

Multitasking, simply put, is the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time.  A human example of this would be the ability to write an email while listening to a presentation.  As humans, many of us tend to think we are excellent multitaskers.  Unfortunately, this isn’t true at all.  The human brain is actually really terrible at multitasking.  Instead, our brains switch rapidly between tasks and fill in the gaps of what we miss, giving us the illusion of multitasking.  Don’t believe us? An excellent example of our failure to multitask is distracted driving.  If we could truly integrate information from multiple sources at once, driving while using a cell phone wouldn’t be a problem.  Each time our brain switches from task to task, it takes time for our brain to re-focus.  Some studies suggest that when performing a difficult task, a distraction could actually result in losing 20minutes of time to re-focus.  This lag or loss of time is called a “task-switch cost”.  

So, how do you study it?

To study the brains’ ability to switch tasks, we used what was called a “cued task-switching paradigm”.  This means the brain is provided with two different stimuli and “cued” as to which one to pay attention to and which one to ignore.  In this case, the participant is provided with a coloured shape and told to respond either to the colour or the shape.  The paradigm compares the response time between multiple of the same task in a row vs a mix of two tasks.  The multitasking paradigm is actually quite difficult as it requires the participant to remember two sets of rules and perform a specific response based on which set of rules is applied.  Once the task is completed, we are able to compare the time it takes a participant to respond to a trial when it is the same set of rules as a previous trial (called a congruent trial) compared to when the trial asks them to “switch” (called an incongruent trial).  This time is called the “task switch cost”.  People that performed this paradigm before and after MindGain were able to improve there task switch cost by 57%.  Another way to put it is that when taking MindGain, people responded correctly 57% faster on a switch task.

Great! What does this mean for me?

The ability to switch tasks more quickly actually has a couple of real-world applications.  First off, it would mean that if you are working and get distracted by an email or text, you are able to return to the task at hand much more quickly.  Second, if you are able to rapidly regain focus on multiple tasks at the same time, you come closer to true efficient multitasking.  We have had MindGain users report taking notes while listening to a presentation and not miss a single word, the ability to maintain a conversation while thinking about something else and an overall increase in the ability to focus on the task in front of them.