The Myth of Multitasking

//The Myth of Multitasking

The Myth of Multitasking

When did we lose our ability to focus on one thing at a time?Driving while multitasking

Everywhere you look, you see people trying to do two or more things at once. Despite evidence to the contrary, 70 percent of people think of themselves as good at multitasking. Yet numerous studies tell us this simply is not true.

Frequent Multitaskers Are Bad At It

The headline above is taken from an article on research conducted by the University of Utah. What they found was that we grossly exaggerate our capabilities.

About 25 percent of the population can do two or more things at once successfully. Surprisingly, these people are the least likely to multitask. Why? Because they understand the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. They get it. The rest of us, unfortunately, think more highly of our abilities to multitask. We just don’t get it.

Using a cell phone while driving is a perfect example of multitasking. We all do it. And we all think more highly of our ability to do it successfully. According to the University of Utah research report cited above:

“The more people multitask by talking on cell phones while driving or by using multiple media at once, the more they lack the actual ability to multitask, and their perceived multitasking ability ‘was found to be significantly inflated.’ In fact, 70 percent of participants thought they were above average at multitasking, which is statistically impossible.”

We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us

As riders, we constantly encounter distracted drivers. It’s not just cell phones causing the problem. More car manufacturers are adding distractions for the driver, from text messaging to internet connectivity. More opportunities for “multitasking.”

Unfortunately, car manufacturers aren’t the only culprits. Indian Motorcycles recently introduced the new Ride Command system for 2017 Chieftains and Roadmasters. A full “infotainment” feature, the seven inch touchscreen will be the largest in the industry. A marvel of technology at your fingertips.

I wasn’t very enthusiastic when I saw this announcement. Do we really need to read incoming text messages while riding? Do we need those multitasking distractions?

You might say “yes!” Oh right, I forgot. As riders, we’re better at multitasking than most drivers are. We’re in that 70 percent “above average” group.

Seeing Is Believing

Mark Twain once said, “facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” So, forget about the distracted driving statistics (despite the mountains of data.) Forget too your personal opinions about multitasking (where we are all above average.) Let’s look at a factual example.

Take a simple test to see how well your brain works when multitasking. Stroop Effect

This is called the Stroop Effect test, and I think you will find the results interesting. I will admit to having taken this test a few times; with disappointing results.

On the other hand, it helps to know your limitations. Use this knowledge to stop trying to multitask. And spread the word by sharing the Stroop Test with others.

Being more focused on the road will improve safety for everyone.curlyOne



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  1. Charlie August 31, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    This is so true!

  2. RTon Sindric August 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I have mixed feelings about MULTITASKING. As a pilot, flying on instruments, watching for near-by “traffic”, keeping an eye on the weather, staying in contact via my radio headset, and listening for “uncomfortable” sounds from my plane’s engine probably constitute MULTITASKING. Flying is probably unique though. There are only two things that fall out of the air; bird shit and fools. Soldiers in a combat situation MUST MULTITASK if they are to stay alive. Good soldiers who are actively dodging bullets must also know how to “ADAPT-AND-OVERCOME” which adds elements of analysis and inventiveness to their battlefield “activity” . Drivers ( both four and two wheeled ) are not schooled / trained / educated in HOW to MULTITASK. This kind of “MULTI” activity-ing needs to be incorporated in driver / rider education. The kind of MULTI-activity-ing that you are talking about is only going to INCREASE; it should become a mandatory part of driver training. By the same token, if a driver gets into an accident that can be directly linked to their distractedness, there should be higher fines and a hefty long time revocation of their driving priviliges. Americans are waaaaay to clumsy as drivers. We need to look at the kind of drivers you find in the Left Lane of the Autobahn. Then there are “PROS” like GP Auto and Motorcycle Drivers … …

    The kind of technology found in H.U.D.s ( Heads Up Displays ) that military combat pilots are currently using will soon filter down to civilian drivers and riders so we must be ready for it !

    • Joe Peek August 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks RT. Do you think though that some of what we consider to be “multtasking” activities are simply task switching, occurring so rapidly that we do not consciously recognize a break from one activity to the next? A matter of semantics to be sure, but in the end you are perhaps right – we need to be ready for it!

      • RTon Sindric August 2, 2016 at 4:52 pm

        Thank you Joe for your thoughts. I have one more thing to add to this discussion. Flying, Sky Diving, Driving, Riding, SCUBA Diving ( I do them all ) in some ways are like PLAYING CHESS. As a person develops their CHESS PLAYING SKILLS, they learn how to anticipate and TO PLAN AHEAD BY MANY MOVES. ( And, I am not talking about fairly linear defensive driving skills ). As we develop our Mobilizing skills, we must not only remember MURPHY’S LAW, but we must additionally learn how to anticipate EVERYTHING. The more “risky” the Mobilizing, the more precarious AND important the MULTI-TASKING and TASK-SWITCHING must become if we are don’t want to do underground gardening from a pine box. Where / How are these Cross-Over-From-Chess-To-Mobilizing taught to Rookies ???

  3. Tom August 2, 2016 at 10:46 am

    This ancient blog may actually be starting to do some good. I have seen owners selling 99-06s now making a point to list that the camshaft tensioners have been converted to hydraulic. Of course for the sellers of such machines that have no documentation of any such upgrade that will def hurt the resale because now any of those with over 20K on them we automatically assume it has NOT been done and will allow for such on the final price paid.

    I DID see a blue and creme Indian over the weekend that looked pretty good, but my new 15 FLHTP has a lot of trouble free miles ahead of it that I intend to put on.

    • Joe Peek August 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks for the comments Tom!

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