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Study points to growing cognitive gap between high-volume TV watchers and infrequent watchers

watching tv adultToo Much TV And Chill Could Reduce Brain Pow­er Over Time (NPR):

Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cis­co checked in with 3,247 peo­ple for 25 years, start­ing when they were young adults…People who got lit­tle exer­cise or watched at least three hours of TV a day did worse Read the rest of this entry »

Distracted in the Workplace? Meet Maggie Jackson’s Book

Today we’ll dis­cuss some of the cog­ni­tive impli­ca­tions of “always on” work­places and lifestyles via a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view with Mag­gie Jack­son, an award-win­ning author and jour­nal­ist. Her lat­est book, Dis­tract­ed: The Ero­sion of Atten­tion and the Com­ing Dark Age, describes Distracted by Maggie Jacksonthe impli­ca­tions of our busy work and life envi­ron­ments and offers impor­tant reflec­tions to help us thrive in them.

This is a 2-part inter­view con­duct­ed via e-mail: we will pub­lish the con­tin­u­a­tion on Thurs­day March 12th.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez: New York Times colum­nist David Brooks said last year that we live in a Cog­ni­tive Age, and encour­aged read­ers to be aware of this change and try and adapt to the new real­i­ty. Can you explain the cog­ni­tive demands of today’s work­places that weren’t there 30–40 years ago?

Mag­gie Jack­son: Our work­places have changed enor­mous­ly in recent decades, and it’s easy to point to the Black­ber­ry or the lap­top as the sources of our cul­ture of speed and over­load and dis­trac­tion. But it’s impor­tant to note first that our 24/7, frag­ment­ed work cul­ture has deep­er roots. With the first high-tech inven­tions, such as the cin­e­ma, phono­graph, tele­graph, rail, and car, came rad­i­cal changes in human expe­ri­ence of time and space. Dis­tance was shat­tered  long before email and red-eye flights. Tele­graph oper­a­tors  not online daters  expe­ri­enced the first vir­tu­al love affairs, as evi­denced by the 1890s nov­el Wired Love. Now, we wres­tle with the effects of changes seed­ed long ago.

Today, the cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal demands on work­ers are steep. Con­sid­er 24/7 liv­ing. At great cost to our health, we oper­ate in a sleep­less, hur­ried world, ignor­ing cues of sun and sea­son, the Indus­tri­al Age inven­tions of the week­end and vaca­tion, and the rhythms of biol­o­gy. We try to break the fet­ters of time and live like per­pet­u­al motion machines. That’s one rea­son why we feel over­loaded and stressed con­di­tions that are cor­ro­sive to prob­lem-solv­ing and clear think­ing.

At the same time, our tech­nolo­gies allow us access to mil­lions of infor­ma­tion bites pro­duc­ing an abun­dance of data that is both won­drous and dan­ger­ous. Unless we have the will, dis­ci­pline and frame­works for turn­ing this infor­ma­tion into wis­dom, we remain stuck on the sur­face of Read the rest of this entry »

Memory Problems? Perhaps you are Multi-tasking

Today’s kids are into mul­ti-task­ing. This is the gen­er­a­tion hooked on iPods, IM’ing, video games — not to men­tion TV! Many peo­ple in my gen­er­a­tion think it is won­der­ful that kids can do all these things simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and are impressed with their com­pe­tence.

Well, as a teacher of such kids when they reach col­lege, I am not impressed. Col­lege stu­dents these days have short atten­tion spans and have trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing. They got this way in sec­ondary school. I see this in the mid­dle-school out­reach pro­gram I help run. At this age kids are real­ly wrapped up in mul­ti-task­ing at the expense of focus.

Accord­ing to a Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion study last year, school kids in all grades beyond the sec­ond grade com­mit­ted, on aver­age, more than six hours per day to TV or videos, music, video games, and com­put­ers. Almost one-third report­ed that “most of the time” they did their home­work while chat­ting on the phone, surf­ing the Web, send­ing instant mes­sages, watch­ing TV, or lis­ten­ing to music.

Kids think that this enter­tain­ment while study­ing helps their learn­ing. It prob­a­bly does make learn­ing less tedious, but it clear­ly makes learn­ing less effi­cient and less effec­tive. Mul­ti-task­ing vio­lates every­thing we know about how mem­o­ry works. Now we have objec­tive sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence that Read the rest of this entry »

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