rebelling against low expectations

Multitasking May Harm Memory


An interesting addition to our series on multitasking.


ABC News, July 25, 2006

People who learn something new while multitasking are less able to recall what they’ve learned later on, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found in a new study. They tested subjects on a simple memory task while at the same time asking them to count the number of random tones they heard while learning. Multitasking didn’t harm memory during the learning but appeared to make it more difficult to retrieve what was learned later.

Writing about these results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, neuroscientists speculate that having distractions around when you’re trying to make a new memory causes the distractions to get so tangled up with the memory that you end up needing the distraction to be able to get the memory back out of storage. For example, if you listen to the radio while studying for a test, you end up needing the music to be recall what you learned. The memory recall becomes less flexible and more dependent on the situation.

Click here for a more in-depth look at the new study.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Alex & Brett
    I just discovered your blog today. You two amaze me. I was not aware that two teenage boys could be so spiritual intuned to what God wants from them. You have taught me a valueable lesson today…That not all teenage boys are jerks.
    My name is Bethanie, 24, wife of a wonderful man and hopeful mother to be. I hang out in the conservative women’s blog world.
    I just wanted to let you know that I’m praying for your ministry and I’ll be checking in to read more.

  • That is scary about needing the original environment to remember what was learned. I guess it is a good idea to cut down on distractions and give full attention to the task at hand! I know that I find it difficult to listen to music and study at the same time, and it is even worse to try a writing project while multiple distractions come from other rooms in the house.

  • Hey Brett and Alex!
    Sorry I havn’t kept up with your blog latley. I have been gone almost the entire summer. I had the most amazing time of my life in Northern Ireland and I just got back from Oregon last night after being there for three weeks! I hope and pray you are both well! It would be great to hear from you sometime.
    God bless
    In Christ,
    Lauren Hammerstrom

  • Great post!

    Since I don’t believe we were created for it, multitasking causes all sorts of problems, and when not multitasking, things seem much better, and more meaningful. I recently had experience with that when our power went out. I posted about it Here

    Anyway, your posts on multitasking just keep getting more and more applicable in this culture.

  • FYI, I heard that the Los Angeles Times is going to publish an article about teens multitasking while on the computer.

  • Wow! That is crazy! I love listening to music while doing math, but I don’t think I will do that anymore. Thanks!

    (I know this post is really old, and you probably won’t see this, but whatever!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →