Being a Multitasker: The Fascinating Human Attention

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First, the video explains what attention is. The attention is the brain’s ability to take in an important information from the world. According to the video, we can only focus on one thing at once, and our brain prioritizes to take in a most important information in our environment. Since we can’t focus everything at once, the attention allows us to focus on something that is important to see and other unnecessary information to be filtered out of our awareness. When we pay our attention to something, prefrontal cortex and parietal lobe play an important role. It acts as switching stations, which allow us to shift our attention from one thing to another. The attention can enhance our process of perception by taking in detailed information that we need to focus on. As a result, we only perceive changes to something within our attention and cause us to pay a little attention in our environments. The Flicker test is a good example to explain this phenomenon. In the Flicker test, the man with a gray shirt asks a volunteer to fill out a release form. Then he says, “let me just grab you a pen” and goes under the table. And then, the man in the gray shirt swapping out to the other man with a different color of the shirt and comes out from underneath the counter. As a result, they put too much attention on filling out a release form, and most of the volunteers didn’t notice the swap.

Second, the video explains there are many ways to manipulate our attention. According to the video, we can manipulate our attention with two basic types of attentions. The first one is top-down attention, which is decision making attention. This process takes place in pre-frontal cortex and plays a critical role in advanced decision making. Another one is bottom-up attention, which can distract our focus when some stimulus stands out. This process occurs in the sensory cortices, which make a response to unexpected stimuli perceived from the environment, and these stimuli can grab our focus.

Third, the video explains about multitasking. According to professor Strayer, we are not multitaskers and we can only focus on one thing at a time. Instead, we are effectively serial processors, and doing one task at a time. When we try multitasking, we are just switching from one activity to another. We just focus on one thing, then switch our focus to the other task. Therefore, almost no one can multitask, while doing them all effectively. In the multitask experiment, the participant was given 2 tasks; Answer a series of basic questions and drive a challenging course. While driving, the experimenter asks him basic questions over the phone, while he avoids hitting his car from a variety of objects. As a result, the participant drove far worse than usual. In another experiment, the participant was asked to do some cognitive tasks while driving on the simulator. While driving, the participants solved math problems while memorizing a list of the words. As a result, both the participant’s driving performance and cognitive task scores got worse when he started to multitask. Therefore, this supports that multitasking is nearly impossible.

Fourth, the video explains the inattentional blindness. According to the video, the inattentional blindness is the phenomenon in which we fail to notice something unexpected when our attention is focused too much on something else. In other words, we often fail to see something if we’re not focusing for it. This happens because our brain focuses attention on something we are looking for and unconsciously filter out all the unnecessary distractions. Therefore, people don’t notice the person in a mascot costume during the counting task.

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Lastly, the video talks about the Stroop effect. The Stroop effect is the observational experiment that measures how quickly the participants can name the color of the font if the list of the colored words doesn’t match the color of the ink. During the task, two interfering signals play an important role to compete for attention. According to the video, the color of the ink is performed in the ventral stream, while the active reading, such as reading the color name is processed in both occipital and temporal lobes. On this task, it makes people nearly 50% longer to say each color. This happens because our brain has an instinct to read the word itself and our attention can’t filter out the word itself as unnecessary information. Thus, it makes difficult for us to do a such task.

I think to talk or texting on a phone while driving is a risky behavior, and I support the government’s decision of prohibiting the use of a phone while driving. According to professor Strayer, our brain can only focus on one thing at a time, and almost no one can multitask while doing them all effectively. In the first multitask experiment, while the participant was driving a uniquely challenging course, the experimenters asked a basic question over the phone. As a result, the participant performed far worse than he expected. In another experiment, the participant was asked to do some cognitive tasks while driving on a simulator. As a result, both the participant’s driving performance and cognitive task scores got worse when he started to multitask. To sum up, these two experimental results suggested we can’t multitask while driving and use of a phone while driving can cause more accidents.

Also, according to the video, talking on the cell phone can cause inattention blindness. When inattention blindness is activated, peoples can see what is happening in their driving environment, but the brain can’t process the information. When this happens, they can miss the traffic lights or run over a pedestrian at a crosswalk. Moreover, according to the professor in the video, when you are talking on a cell phone while driving, the probability of getting into a crash is quite high and is equivalent to driving at a 0.08 blood alcohol level. The crash risk is double when they are texting while driving. Lastly, the 2002 study introduced in the video suggests talking on the phone while driving causes over 2,500 deaths and 330,000 injuries every year in the US. Therefore, driving while talking on the phone should be prohibited to prevent the risk of car accidents.

I think I am not a good multitasker and I feel like multitasking is worsening my performance because I always received a lower grade when I am studying for the exam while doing a homework assignment for other class. Also, when I read an article while talking to someone over a phone makes me forget some important part of the article. After watching the result of multitasking test, I learned multitasking can negatively affect our performance on a task. The experimental result of the multitasking test explained why I performed terribly on a task when I try multitasking. Now I know multitasking can only lead a negative result, and I wouldn’t try multitasking in the future. 

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