Don't Use Up All Your Energy Multitasking

Heavy multitaskers become worse at the very thing that they should be very good at. 

We know that attention is an incredibly finite resource.  So there’s really only so much of it to go around and we can train our attention so that we become better but will never be able to make it infinite. 


And so one of the things that task switching does is use up mental energy so you need resources to switch your focus from one thing to another and the theory is actually very simple: the more your mind is doing, the more resources it needs.  And so every time you switch your attention you’re actually switching circuits, you’re switching your focus, you’re switching the neural mechanisms behind it and that expends energy.  Literally you can replenish it by having glucose or other things that actually boost your energy levels.  So it’s a very, very literal thing that happens. 

Your brain is actually getting tired, you’re actually losing resources and you’re actually becoming less able to do other things because you use those resources for the task switching now you no longer have them to pay attention to the tasks that you’re doing.

There’s a lot really interesting work that shows that people who multitask frequently are less efficient at task switching because they don’t know how to take those resources and really use them to their full potential. I think this is really fascinating because it ends up that heavy multitaskers become worse at the very thing that they should be very good at. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Are we all multiple personalities of universal consciousness?

Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.

We’re all one mind in "idealism." (Credit: Alex Grey)
Mind & Brain

There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.

Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less