Richard G. Petty, MD


Here’s a study that came I under the radar, but is an important contribution to our on-going discussions about the perils of multi-tasking.

Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at my alma mater in London did a most interesting study funded by, of all people, Hewlett Packard.

It was a postal study carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and the main finding was that excessive use of technology reduced workers’ intelligence.

Those distracted by incoming email and phone calls were fond to have a 10-point fall in their IQ. That would be more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking marijuana. People who are constantly breaking away from tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind and the brain as losing a night’s sleep

More than half of the 1,100 respondents said they always responded to an email "immediately" or as soon as possible, with 21% admitting they would interrupt a meeting to do so.

Do we really need any more evidence to confirm the dangers of multitasking and constant partial attention?

I don’t think so.

Therefore I’m going to continue to publish tips and techniques for dealing with the barrage of information that threatens to drown us.

Even before the oceans begin to rise….

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.


2 Responses to “Infomania”
  1. Les Posen says:

    Hi Richard, have you got the original citation for Wilson’s research? I’m doing workshops on PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) for lawyers and accountants (psychologists are a lost cause 😉 and would like ot see how I could integrate his findings into my workshops.

  2. Richard Petty says:

    Dear Les,

    For some reason Typepad swallowed my response to you, so I thought I’d try again.

    The Infomania data is not from a peer-reviewed paper. It came from a report prepared for Hewlett Packard with Glenn Wilson’s help. You can find the report here:

    All of the comments that I quote came directly from Glenn, (his web age at the Institute is:

    But over the last few months he’s been back peddling. I think that he regrets some of his comments to journalists made in the heat of the moment: He’s a good scientist and a nice person, but it’s easy to trip yourself up when journalists start trying to put words in your mouth!

    This is something that Glenn wrote recently to clarify the work:

    “There were two parts to their “research” (1) a Gallup-type survey of around 1000 people who admitted misusing their technology in various ways (e.g. answering e-mails and phone calls while in meetings with other people), and (2) a small in-house experiment with 8 subjects (within-S design) showing that their problem solving ability (on matrices type problems) was seriously impaired by incoming e-mails (flashing on their computer screen) and their own mobile phone ringing intermittently (both of which they were instructed to ignore) by comparison with a quiet control condition. This, as you say, is a temporary distraction effect – not a permanent loss of IQ. The equivalences with smoking pot and losing sleep were made by others, against my counsel, and 8 Ss somehow became “80 clinical trials”.

    Hope that gives you what you need!

    Kind regards,


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