Context Switching: How it impedes cognitive function

As again, I will include snippets of useful information for providing the context.

CNN.com – E-mails ‘hurt IQ more than pot’ – Apr 22, 2005

He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points — the equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” Wilson said. “We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness.

“This is more worrying when you consider the potential impairment on performance and concentration for workers, and the consequent impact on businesses.”

The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two – Wikipedia

The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information[1] is one of the most highly cited papers in psychology.[2][3][4] It was written by the cognitive psychologistGeorge A. Miller of Harvard University‘s Department of Psychology and published in 1956 in Psychological Review. It is often interpreted to argue that the number of objects an average human can hold in short-term memory is 7 ± 2. This has occasionally been referred to as Miller’s law.[5][6][7]

In his article, Miller discussed a coincidence between the limits of one-dimensional absolute judgment and the limits of short-term memory. In a one-dimensional absolute-judgment task, a person is presented with a number of stimuli that vary on one dimension (e.g., 10 different tones varying only in pitch) and responds to each stimulus with a corresponding response (learned before). Performance is nearly perfect up to five or six different stimuli but declines as the number of different stimuli increases. The task can be described as one of information transmission: The input consists of one out of n possible stimuli, and the output consists of one out of n responses. The information contained in the input can be determined by the number of binary decisions that need to be made to arrive at the selected stimulus, and the same holds for the response. Therefore, people’s maximum performance on a one-dimensional absolute judgment can be characterized as an information channel capacity with approximately 2 to 3 bits of information, which corresponds to the ability to distinguish between four and eight alternatives.

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