Supertaskers & Multitaskers

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Strayer and Watson’ article titled “Supertaskers and Multitasking Brain” illustrates how the brain functions especially when trying to process several tasks at the same time. The authors begin with an exploration of how several incidents have occurred as a result of divided attention (Finley, Benjamin & McCarley, 2014). The main illustration used in the article is driving while using a phone. The issue presented in the article is that some people can multitask conveniently as the title of the article suggests. These unique people have offered an insight of exploring more on the neural mechanisms t to understand the managing process of multiple mental activities. The article lacks a specific research question or hypothesis noted, but the Strayer and Watson (2012) address the general context of their study. The authors indicate that multitasking does affect performance levels. However, some people such as the fighting aircraft pilots often multitask (Strayer & Watson, 2012).

            Addressing the issue, Strayer and Watson focus on the brain capacity. The authors indicate that there is a limited capacity for attention in human beings’ mind; an indication that every person has a limited ability that can allow multitasking. They point out that concentration may increase some pointers while suppressing others. These actions happen in two ways known as inhibition and facilitation. Further, they illustrate that one can attain a healthy cognition by tuning attention appropriately. Failure to have the proper tuning may result in psychological disorders. The authors indicate that in some situations, extreme multitasking may intensify some mental issues (Strayer & Watson, 2012).

            The researchers also reviewed the literature on the issue of multitasking. Also, they have studied the legal circumstances such as a driver using a phone and fails to notice the traffic light, proceeding in a crossing, triggering an accident. It is clear that there is a significant value of understanding when people can and cannot multitask because not all situations can allow multitasking effectively. The divided attention caused by talking on a phone while driving causes inattention blindness (Bredemeier & Simons, 2012). Often, intersection violations are so dangerous, and it is shocking to learn that such common incidents are linked to this level of impairment.

            Strayer and Watson used surveys to collect data for their study. An observation made to understand the concept of driving in distraction instances indicates that divided attention will make one fail to notice other items in the surrounding. For example, drivers using a cell phone while on wheels are likely not to “notice up to half of the items they looked at.” With multitasking, the level of reaction to items that one looks is slower. However, the degree of remembering the items detected while multitasking is different for various items. For example, a driver can easily remember a kid on a footway, but some such as billboards near the road are not easily remembered. The authors indicate that “breaks of attention essentially makes the drivers partially blind to important details in their look.” Further, the authors have detailed their laboratory experiments on how drivers are affected by distractions.

            The issue of multitasking contradicts the conventional phrase; practice makes perfect. With multitasking, the authors say "practice makes imperfect." Comparing those drivers using cell phones while on wheels and those drivers who did so less often, the effects are almost similar even though the authors say there was limited laboratory practice to explain the claim. From the data collected from various experiments, Strayer and Watson say “people who were high in real-world multitasking had a lower working-memory capacity, were more impulsive and sensation-seeking." Such people their capability to address several tasks as high.

            Strayer and Watson also explored other works concerning the motivation of people to multitask. Typically, people shifting between multiple tasks are looking for an increased time spent on the functions that yield the best results. Consequently, the authors say that whatever causes an individual to multitask, the overall impact of multitasking seems to hamper performance instead of offering assistance.

            The research shows that there are people with particular traits called supertaskers. After an investigation of seven hundred people, the authors identified nineteen people who met the “supertasker” criteria. The performance of these individuals is unique such that it does not deteriorate when accomplishing several tasks at the same time (Junco & Cotten, 2012). According to Strayer and Watson, these people seemed to possess the "right stuff," to keep their thoughts steady in challenging circumstances just as fighter pilots do in challenging conditions. However, multitasking is a new phenomenon. Among the benefits that can be gained from multitasking include identifying occupations that might ideally match supertaskers. The authors make use of Einstein’s observations on kissing while driving to suggest that a significant number of people cannot multitask without incurring some costs.  Finally, the advent of technology has aided many people to multitask. The supertaskers’ ability to manage multiple goals may attract the attention of many researchers.


Bredemeier, K., & Simons, D. J. (2012). Working memory and inattentional blindness. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19(2), 239-244.

Finley, J. R., Benjamin, A. S., & McCarley, J. S. (2014). Metacognition of multitasking: How well do we predict the costs of divided attention? Journal of experimental psychology:       applied, 20(2), 158.

Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59(2), 505-514.

Strayer, D. L., & Watson, J. M. (2012). Supertaskers and the multitasking brain. Scientific American Mind, 23(1), 22-29.

October 30, 2023




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