Friday, April 07, 2006

The Multitasking or Music-Tasking Generation?

Time Magazine's Cover Story is on the Multitasking Generation.

Excerpt: "My parents always tell me I can't do homework while listening to music, but they don't understand that it helps me concentrate." The twins also multitask when hanging with friends, which has its own etiquette. "When I talk to my best friend Eloy," says Piers, "he'll have one earpiece [of his iPod] in and one out."

Well, what is it anyway. Are these kids frying their attention spans or maybe doing something good? And how does this jive with our really one-track minds (below)?

Music-tasking is not exactly the same as carrying on two conversations at once or even listening to two different lectures at once. Most music junkies are also very particular about what they're playing (familiar and personally pleasant) and the wrong sort of stuff often provokes an emotional reaction.

In the figure below, you can see that imagery continues to activate our auditory cortex (mostly imagery areas) when those brief gaps are embedded into familiar music. The imagery continuum doesn't continue with unfamiliar music.

This means musictasking is not really so much brain work as you think. It doesn't really prevent you from really listening to what your Mom / teacher / boss is telling you (see the open space that's the primary auditory cortex), or ravaging your brain by furious switches back-and-forth between different demanding tasks.

At it's best, familiar music just induces a pleasant and brain-restful expectancy. Music primes the brain with for new associations, intuitive thinking, and even language.

p.s. Do be careful with the Ipods etc., though. Too loud, too long, and you're causing permanent hearing loss.

The Multitasking Generation
Music Primes the Brain
Musical Imagery
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Our One-Track Minds: We're Not Really Multi-Tasking...
Eide Neurolearning Blog: More Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Among Students
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Be Careful What You Buy: MP3s, Ipods, Ear Buds

1 comment:

  1. I was the same way in college. I had to have my music blaring when I was studying. Except for my Spanish. It must have been that it was too difficult for me to switch codes. It goes the other way too: I can't listen to Spanish and read English.