Can we kill the myth of human multitasking?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Michael Goff, Dec 25, 2015.

  1. Michael Goff macrumors G3

    Michael Goff

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    #1
    Often, too often, people will tell me about their amazing multitasking skills. They will try to tell me how they do it. It's kind of become an annoyance, if only for one reason.

    Humans don't multitask.

    Humans single task and task switch, some task switch quicker and more frequently than others.

    Another question, I guess, is why this myth is perpetuating. I just don't understand it.
     
  2. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #2
    My guess is that the term "multitasking" sounds better that "single task and task switch".

    It just doesn't roll off the tongue.
     
  3. BradWould macrumors 6502

    BradWould

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    #3
    There are some functions a human can do simultaneously. Walking and chewing gum for example. I rarely have to stop walking to chew. :D

    Also, Checking your email in the bathroom o_O
     
  4. ftaok macrumors 601

    ftaok

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    #4
    Actually if you think about it, you're not really checking your email while you're going to the bathroom. You are quickly switching back and forth between reading and emptying your bowels. Really!
     
  5. dec. Suspended

    dec.

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    I sometimes like to believe that I'm multitasking when I am playing some computer game with the guitar strapped around and watching a movie on the other computer, but then I realize that it's more like the iOS version of "multitasking". By the time I pay attention to the movie, it's halfway through and I have to restart it, meanwhile I don't progress much in the game and my guitar playing is sloppy.
     
  6. flyinmac macrumors 68030

    flyinmac

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  7. nightcap965 macrumors 6502a

    nightcap965

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  8. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    Yet people can't walk and check their phone at the same time.

    You have to know your limits.
     
  9. jerwin macrumors 65816

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    Is this going to evolve into a discussion as to why ios is better suited to the human condition than macosx? Because a lot of what I do on a computer involves working with three or more programs simultaneously.
     
  10. BradWould macrumors 6502

    BradWould

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    I think the OP is going for something deeper. Like the fact that you need to switch to each program, or look from one window to the other, means you're not actually doing 2 things at once. Just one quickly after the other. Personally I think the word multitasking is fine.
     
  11. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    Chinese Emperors of old had retainers who were multi-tasking, multi-threaded, multi-users capable. They were called Unix or something like that.:p:D
     
  12. nightcap965 macrumors 6502a

    nightcap965

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    You originally made this argument in reference to expectations of a future iPad Pro, Michael. Here's the thing: Yes, humans task switch. But we do it very, very quickly, which is why we need computers that multitask. The thing that bugs me about my old iPad 4 is when I need information not on the screen. Opening multiple apps and moving between them is miserable.
     
  13. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    I actually do multitask regularly at work. It's not unusual for me to simultaneously talk on the phone while I work on the computer. And while this may be stretching the definition a bit ... I juggle dozens of projects, in various levels of completion every day. Does the planning and coordination that goes on inside my head count as a task? If so, then most of us multitask.
     
  14. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #14
    You're switching your attention from one task to another, i.e., task switching.
     
  15. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    But it may happening simultaneously while I'm on the computer composing a design. Now I understand that it can be more sequential than actually simultaneous, but that distinction can be so fine as to become meaningless.

    I don't (and I suspect most don't) work uninterrupted on one project from start to finish. Multitasking isn't literally performing multiple tasks simultaneously. It's juggling them in some prioritized fashion that brings those tasks to completion in a coordinated and satisfactory way.

    Does it matter if that isn't the strict definition of multitasking?
     
  16. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    Yes, it "matters," because you're trying to use a term (multitasking) from computer engineering and apply it to human engineering.
     
  17. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

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    See now that's something I can't do. If I start talking on the phone I notice I'll stop typing or if I'm typing I'll stop talking. I don't know if others are the same, but that's what happens to me.
     
  18. jerwin macrumors 65816

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    Before "cores" were a thing, computers timesliced. They still do. So it's difficult for me to understand multitasking without thinking about switching.
     
  19. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #19
    The human brain isn't a digital computer, doesn't switch tasks with the same efficiency, etc., otherwise it could more safety text and drive at the same time.

    Trying to apply terms from computer engineering to human engineering just doesn't work...
     
  20. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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  21. Mr. Buzzcut macrumors 65816

    Mr. Buzzcut

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    It's true. In fact, there have been studies about it. After being distracted by a second task, it takes a significant amount of time to get back to where you were on the first. Obviously there are some things humans do subconsciously but that's rarely what is meant when people say they multitask. They are talking about complex tasks.
     
  22. Michael Goff thread starter macrumors G3

    Michael Goff

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    No, I just used computer terms because they're the best ones to use for my points. People understand them, they're easy.

    Pretty much this.

    Yes, the iPad Pro was the first time I said it on here. It has been an annoyance from RL as well, though. I only just got the "final straw" sort of thing and moved to make the thread.

    One of those takes you doing things, I think. :p

    That makes me think about how most people around my workplace go about the maintenance work. They go about it in a smile A, B, C fashion, doing each task until it's done before moving to the next. I also have seen people get distracted in the middle and they had to take time to figure out where they were in the process.
     
  23. jerwin macrumors 65816

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    #23
    It's called "swapping to disk". Consult your IT department about adding more memory.
     
  24. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    It works just fine ... so long as one understands the difference between figurative and literal.

    We use so many figurative terms that it seems odd to me to get too picky about it. The only reason it would matter is if use of the term causes confusion and misunderstanding. But I don't see that being the case here.
     
  25. localoid, Dec 25, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015

    localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #25
    When humans focus of their attention on a given task, they can end up missing things...


    In other words, you think it's OK to use the term "apple" to mean "orange." They're both kinda round... Close enough!
     

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