We multitask in a multitude of ways on a daily basis: chatting via Bluetooth while driving, hearing about family members’ days while monitoring pasta on the stove and scrolling social media while watching our favourite TV shows. For a lot of parents, dividing attention feels normal; a symptom of our busy lives.
Arnold Glass, a psychology professor at Rutgers University, admits that in a lot of situations, there is little consequence to splitting our focus.
“If you are dividing attention when you are at the store buying groceries, it doesn’t that you don’t have a detailed memory of that two weeks later,” Glass said.
But Glass says the lack of focus comes at a cost in the classroom. Glass used more than 100 of his cognitive psychology students as guinea pigs to determine the effect electronic devices like cellphones and laptops have on students’ long-term retention of class lessons. He was able to track the impact by looking at their performance in the final exam.
“The difference in the final exam was large enough to be meaningful,” he said. “On days when students were not allowed to look at electronic devices, they got 85 per cent of the questions correct.
“However, when they were allowed to look at their electronic devices, they got 80 per cent correct. For most people that’s the difference between a B and a B+ or maybe even between a B and an A.”
Ahead of the school year, Glass is encouraging students to put their devices aside and focus on their university lectures. Glass’ study was recently published in Educational Psychology. For a closer look click here.
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