Richard G. Petty, MD

More on the Multi-tasking Mess

I have written about the problems inherent in multi-tasking in a previous post on March 27th. But three things have prompted me to revisit the issue:

1. I had a very kind note from Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, whose work I praised in my previous post.

2. After the articles in Time and Newsweek magazines, there was a flurry of correspondence from young people saying that we should rejoice in their newly acquired abilities to multi-task. Some seemed to be suggesting that they were in the vanguard of a general and very positive cognitive restructuring in the younger generation. Though it is possible, what they all seemed to be missing was the full import of David Meyer’s work on the increasing numbers of mistakes that creep in as we multi-task, or Linda Stone’s important point about the downsides of continuous partial attention. At the risk of sounding like a reactionary, as I read some of the comments, and as I reflected on the manifest differences in the working styles of students, I kept wondering if some people no longer even realize the poor quality of the work that they are turning in.

3. I have mentioned before that data collected in Europe about the dangers of using cell phones while driving, has lead several countries to enact new laws to restrict cell phones use in cars. CNN has picked up on a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. They confirm what any experienced driver knows already: driving takes concentration and vigilance, and chatting on a cell phone, eating, drinking and applying makeup is not likely to be compatible with safe driving. Since moving to Atlanta, I have seen some extraordinary examples of drivers doing just about everything apart from concentrating on driving. The most extraordinary was seeing someone reading a newspaper while doing well over fifty miles an hour. And yes, I’ve also seen more accidents in Atlanta than I have in all my previous years of driving.

So I was thinking: if I could be King for a day, I think that the first thing that I’d do is ban cell-phones in cars except for emergencies. And then we’d stop having cup holders in cars. So it’s probably a good thing that we’ve stopped having Kings in the USA…

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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