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"Taken To 'Task" -- The Discovery Files

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An Ohio State University study suggests that people aren't very good at media multitasking, but do it anyway because it makes them feel good.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

If you're multitasking right now, what did I just say?

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: keyboards, media) Oh, aren't we just mega-efficient media multitasking machines? Getting all kinds of stuff done on our pods and pads with our buds and apps, and feeling good about ourselves? Well, you may be half right. According to a study out of Ohio State University, it makes us feel good but in all actuality multitasking falls short in the productivity department.

College students were asked to record all their media use and other activities for 28 days, as well as their motivations for each activity, and how well those goals were met.

Turns out the students were more likely to multitask when they needed to study or work. And the multitasking often gave them an emotional boost--not because it made them more productive, but because it made them feel better.

(Sound effect: TV sound in background) Students who studied while watching TV, for example, felt more emotionally satisfied than those who studied without TV. But they also reported they didn't study as effectively. Even though multitasking failed them cognitively, they're likely to keep repeating this behavior because it rewards them emotionally, and becomes habit-forming.

More study on the long-term effects of multitasking is needed. Multitask? I can't even task.

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