Social Media Multitasking May Damage Attention Span

    April 18, 2011

It’s no secret that occasional breaks can serve the average worker well; focusing on a task for too long can cause an individual to lose perspective and interest.  Only research conducted by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco drives home the point that checking email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts too regularly can also hurts adults’ ability to concentrate.

A statement released by the university on April 11th explained, “Researchers know that multitasking negatively impacts working memory in both young and older adults.  However, anecdotal accounts of ‘senior moments’ . . . combined with scientific studies conducted at UCSF and elsewhere indicate that the impact is greater in older people.”

Then Adam Gazzaley, the senior author of the new study, added, “The impact of distractions and interruptions reveals the fragility of working memory.  This is an important fact to consider, given that we increasingly live in a more demanding, high-interference environment, with a dramatic increase in the accessibility and variety of electronic media and the devices that deliver them, many of which are portable.”

A list of Gazzaley’s degrees and titles includes MD, PhD, UCSF associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry, director of the UCSF Neuroscience Imaging Center, and member of the W. M. Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, by the way.

So depending on what sort of attention span a person hopes to have, he or she may want to try taking a step back from things like smartphones and iPads.  Individuals might cut back on Facebook and/or Twitter alerts, too.

UCSF Study on Multitasking Reveals Switching Glitch in Aging Brain #neurology #neuroscience 6 days ago via Seesmic Desktop · powered by @socialditto

Somewhat ironically, though, UCSF maintains a presence on Twitter and alerted all of its followers of the findings.