Another entry in the too much technology debate: Hooked on Gadgets, And Paying a Mental Price in today’s New York Times.
“Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. …These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.”
This is fascinating to me, because I’ve come across this theme of addiction (and the shame that sometimes comes with it) in my research with college students. For example, when I’ve asked students to keep a technology journal for a few days, the response often ends up being “wow, I didn’t realize how much technology I use and how dependent on it I am” and “that’s not a good thing.” When I ask why they feel so dependent on it, however, the answer tends to be harder for them to articulate – because they’ll feel out of the loop, like they’ll miss something, or might be letting others down who expect them to be always available. These are reasonable and important social explanations, in the context of the social worlds in which they operate. It’s really interesting to see that there might also be a cognitive and physical explanation as well… and interesting to ponder the potential interplay between the social and the cognitive…
Related to the article, you can also test your focus using an interactive quiz from Stanford researchers that was used to examine how many objects low and high multitaskers could hold in short term memory.
I’m not a great multitasker – I tend to work very intensely on one thing at a time, and end up being sunk deep enough into the task that I get annoyed at distractions and interruptions. According to the Stanford research, this explains my high scores on the focus test.