At Brown University, students are fortunate enough to have many different resources available to them. “With more than 300 student groups, whatever you’re into… chances are there’s a club for it at Brown,” the University’s student organization web page advertises (1). From a cappella groups to intramural teams, the possibilities seem endless. Furthermore, in the off chance that there is not a club for one of your interests, there are ways for students to create new extracurricular groups. While the exposure to different kinds of activities encourages the idea of maintaining diverse interests, are students too busy?
"Multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn," said Russell Poldrack, UCLA associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study (2). Poldrack continued, “When distractions force you to pay less attention to what you are doing, you don't learn as well as if you had paid full attention.”
Ironically, students are often encouraged to load themselves with extracurricular activities to make them seem more “well-rounded.” (“Well-rounded” is defined in the dictionary as “having desirably varied abilities or attainments.” (3)) From as early as high school, students may feel pressured to do as many things as they can to make them more academically appealing.
“At my school there is something of an obsession with the… college systems, which require a significant degree of ‘well roundedness’. In the admissions processes to many organizations in my community, there is also a very large stress on well roundedness,” Riley Murray, a junior in a California high school (4).
However, perhaps doing a lot of different activities simultaneously simply makes us better at being distracted, and does not help us excel at those different activities. Dr. Clifford Naas, a professor from Stanford conducted a study on different people who engage in multi-tasking behaviors.
“We studied people who were chronic multi-taskers, and even when we did not ask them to do anything close to the level of multitasking they were doing, their cognitive processes were impaired. So basically, they are worse at most of the kinds of thinking not only required for multitasking but what we generally think of as involving deep thought.” (5)
Another study conducted by a Microsoft office in Redmond, WA found that multi-tasking compromises your ability to filter irrelevant in order to focus on relevant information, your ability to access your immediate work memory, and your ability to quickly switch from one task to another. (6)
If multi-tasking temporarily lowers your IQ by 10 points, are students really bettering themselves as they pursue a handful of activities in an attempt to make themselves more well-rounded? Is a system that provides students with over 300 groups, actually creating a distracted community?
Ethan Tobias, a columnist for the Brown Daily Herald explains, “Brown students are extremely busy. Most are involved in some kind of sport or student group and spend hours each week in meetings, internships and practice sessions. On top of that, students are constantly striving for academic excellence.” (7)
That’s definitely a lot to handle.
1. “Student Organizations.” Brown University. http://www.brown.edu/campus-life/clubs
2. “Multi-tasking Adversely Affects Brain’s Learning, UCLA Psychologists Report.” ScienceDaily.com. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060726083302.htm
3. “Well-rounded.” Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/well-rounded
4. “A Conversation on TED.com.” ted.com. http://www.ted.com/conversations/1265/well_roundedness_and_immersion.html
5. “5 Reasons to Stop Multi-Tasking, Immediately.” JordanRivas.com. http://jordanrivas.com/?p=575
7. “Tobias ’12: Too busy to care?” The Brown Daily Herald. http://www.browndailyherald.com/tobias-12-too-busy-to-care-1.2733872#.T6...