Why Multitasking Could Be Bad for Your Brain and Memory

Why Multitasking Could Be Bad for Your Brain and Memory

Assume you’re studying a textbook, listening to music, chatting on social media with a friend, and eating a meal. That may appear to be a bit extreme. Nonetheless, we’ve all been in situations where we were doing multiple things at once. At such times, we have the impression that we are accomplishing a great deal. Do you, however, get more done when you multitask?

Why Multitasking May Be Harmful to Your Brain

Multitasking is the ability of a person to focus on more than one task at the same time. But do humans even have this ability?

The truth is that humans are not designed to focus on multiple tasks at once. In fact, juggling multiple tasks at once may slow your cognitive processing.

When we multitask, we are usually unable to organize our thoughts or filter out unnecessary information. This is especially true when performing tasks that require a great deal of concentration, such as studying mathematical concepts. In other words, when we do too many things at once, our efficiency and work quality suffer.

Furthermore, a study at the University of London discovered that those who multitasked while performing brain-intensive tasks experienced IQ drops comparable to those who were sleep-deprived or smoked marijuana.

Furthermore, multitasking has been linked to increased cortisol production, a stress hormone that makes us tired when we need energy to concentrate.

What if some people are naturally good at multitasking?

What if some people have a natural ability to multitask? A study at Stanford University compared groups of people based on their proclivity to multitask and their belief that it improves their performance. They discovered that heavy multitaskers — those who multitask frequently and believe it improves their performance — were actually worse at juggling multiple tasks at once than those who prefer to do one thing at a time.

If we define multitasking as the ability to deal with, rather than focus on, more than one task at the same time, that may sound more reasonable, and Stanford University research shows that if you learn to do one thing at a time, you’re still likely to become good at handling and switching between different tasks when the need arises.


It’s difficult to stop multitasking once we start. When we finish a small task and switch to another after a few seconds, our brains receive a dose of the reward hormone dopamine. This is similar to the experience of a cocaine addict getting high. It feels good, so we’re likely to keep bouncing back and forth between minor and unimportant tasks without accomplishing anything major.

Chronic multitasking impairs your ability to learn and reduces your productivity. Worse, studies indicate that it may harm your brain and memory.