Effective multitasking and cognitive

Multitasking is a term first applied to computer processes. Technically, it refers to the ability of a computer to perform more than one function at the same time. When length of time to complete a task is computed in nanoseconds, it’s obvious that more of the computer’s time is spent waiting to do something than actually doing it. Ultimately creative approaches to capturing and utilizing those unused nanoseconds of time on the computer led to the ability to do several things at the same time, called multitasking. Yet, at another level, a computer cannot do two things at the exact same time, only two things in such close time sequence that they seem to be done together.

The term multitasking used in the sense of human activities has been jokingly used to refer to doing more than one thing at the same time, yet the human brain is not more capable of sending the same impulse to two different places at the same time than a computer is. The nerve endings just fire in such close sequence that it seems as if it happened in the identical time span.

The process of learning in a human is much the same as it is in a computer. The electrical charges of the nerve endings are impressed as memories in certain areas of the brain. We remember an event and are able to call it to the forefront in the same way that a Windows screen can be brought to the foreground to work on it. Just as certain areas of the brain are ‘dedicated’ to certain functions such as digestion, breathing and hearing, so the computer memory will have certain areas used for system operation.

In this sense the human brain is capable of multitasking because we can breathe, digest a overly large lunch and read and understand a book at the same time. In this instance though, different areas of the brain are dedicated to certain functions. For example, the frontal lobe is the part of the brain that has control of planning, spontaneity, emotions, judgment, language and memory. The cerebellum deals with sensory perception and motor output. The medulla controls involuntary impulses such as breathing, swallowing and coughing.

So, the ability to breathe and chew gum at the same time in humans is because breathing is controlled by one area of the brain and chewing gum by another.
The effectiveness of multitasking in the sense of doing two different tasks at the same time though, is limited, particularly if they are tasks which require control by the same area of the brain. A person trying to compose a musical symphony in his brain while mentally adding a subplot to their latest novel probably will not be successful in either one.

However, a person who is doing a repetitive task such as working on an automotive assembly line may be able to do very creative imagining at the same time. This would be considered multitasking by many people. If it is important to complete two tasks at the same time or by the same deadline, it may be a more effective use of your time to finish one and then begin the second one if both involve using the same area of the brain. More time would be lost attempting to jump back and forth between equally creative tasks than it would require to finish both projects consecutively.


  1. Invaluable says:

    Whenever someone attempts to multitask or, switchtask they are actually being less efficient and getting less done. The point is this, whenever you do one thing at a time or, single task you are going to be more effective than when you try to switchtask or multitask.

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