Multitasking is pervasive in our society, despite the fact that it often leads to sub-par quality of work and added stress. So why do we do it, even when research -- and personal experience -- shows it doesn't really work?
A small new study in the Journal of Communication suggests it's because multitasking makes us feel better emotionally.
"There's this myth among some people that multitasking makes them more productive," study researcher Zheng Wang, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, said in a statement. "But they seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive -- they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work."
The study included 32 college students, who all carried a device similar to a cell phone for four weeks. They were also asked to report their activities three times a day -- like when they watched, read or listened to a computer, radio, TV or print material -- and how long they participated in each activity, as well as if they were multitasking by doing another activity at the same time.
The researchers asked the study participants say why they did each activity (or combination of activities, if multitasking) -- whether it was for social purposes, for fun or entertainment, for study or work purposes, or because of a habit or to provide background noise. The study participants rated the "strength" of each need out of 10 points, and then whether the need was actually met out of four points.
Researchers found that people were more likely to multitask if they needed to work, study or complete a habitual task. But the researchers found that multitasking wasn't actually effective in terms of fulfilling those needs.
However, the researchers did find that emotional needs -- like having fun, being entertained or relaxed -- were met by multitasking.
Want tips to becoming a unitasker, instead of an inefficient multitasker? Read HuffPost blogger Dr. Jim Taylor's tips here.
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