The Myth of Multitasking
9 Feb 2016

In 21st century schools and businesses we are taught to associate “multitasking” with efficiency, productivity, and competency. But what exactly does it mean to multitask? How many different tasks can the brain focus on at the same time? Two? Three? As it turns out, science has consistently shown that the human brain can only sustain attention on one item at a time (1). Our overestimation of our attentional capacity stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of multitasking and of the human attentional system as a whole. The now felonious act of driving while talking on the cell phone will serve as a good example to examine the common misconceptions surrounding multitasking. The conscious experience of driving while talking on the phone is perceived as unified, fluid, and seamless, but this is a mental mirage.