Multitasking or Attention Switching?

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Recently during one of our discussions about the way individuals work and learn, we debated whether humans are inherently capable of multi-tasking, or is it a singular task at any point in time, but are capable of rapid switching of attention from task to task. As a general search on the web will reveal, there is quite a debate about multitasking and task switching.

We figured there must be a simple way to check this out, so we created a small game like application to see for ourselves. It’s based on simple word identification. The user is given a select set of words at the top. He has to identify those same words in the falling streams of words in the two windows side by side. He needs to either multitask – to monitor the word streams and identify the words that occur in the set, or he must constantly switch focus from window to window. Either way, the idea is to identify correctly to get a point, click the wrong word you lose a point. Each round will last 30 seconds and subsequent rounds will include faster word streams. There isn’t an end state in the game; it just keeps increasing the difficulty.

Multitasking or Attention Switching?

Click On The Image Above To Launch The Application

We aren’t drawing any conclusions just yet and wanted to share this so you can try it out and reach your own conclusions. You can tweak it to try variations of the experiment. Try it out and comment here about what your take on the multi-tasking vs. attention switching debate is. Experiencing what happens as your perception and cognition cope in such a situation is quite a learning experience. That very learning can apply in the design of learning solutions. Hope you find it interesting.

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