Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Is it possible to multitask?

The video below demonstrates how our brains filter information. It was made to promote cyclist safety. The point being that if you are concentrating hard on one thing, other things, like a cyclist, won't be noticed.

On more than one occasion while my wife has been driving we will pass one of those folks dressed up as a hot dog or a taco or a fluorescent haired clown advertising a local merchant.

After passing the clown, I will say something clever like, "Cute clown?".
She replies, "What clown?"
I say, "The clown on the side of the road waving the big 4-x-4 sign on a stick."
"There was no clown."
"Yes there was."
"No way!"
"Yes way!"

You get the idea. This has happened often enough, that in any similar circumstance where one of us should have noticed or seen something, we often say...."Didn't you see the clown?"

My reason for bringing this up is not to air my marital issues ( I love my wife even if she can't see the clown) but to point out this brain filtering mechanism. And to ask the question, can we truly multi-task? Or are we really serial-tasking very quickly? If this is a skill needed in the workplace, is there a way we can better prepare kids to handle it? Is there a way for me to re-train my 50+ year old brain without some sort of mental implosion?

[Image:Flickr: Bahman:]

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