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Is your brain really wired for multi-tasking?

Q: Tell us about multi-tasking.
A: It doesn’t exist.

WARNING: If you are taking five minutes to read this on your computer, don’t forget to read your incoming email alerts. If you are reading this on your phone, make sure you can also see your inbox screen and message pop-ups. Also, just email that client, don’t bother to make a time to meet, that way you can increase your productivity, right?


In October, NIDA Corporate presented a session at a conference where neuro scientist Dr Fiona Kerr was keynote speaker. I was lucky enough to catch some of her presentation where she answered the following question:

Q: Tell us about multi-tasking.
A: It doesn’t exist.

Dr Kerr and other neuro scientists have debunked the theory that the human brain can address multiple tasks simultaneously, and confirmed that face-to-face interaction is far more important than the most whiz bang app on your smart phone. You can hear more via her podcast.
Dr Kerr has a passion for the value of human interaction and its amazingly transformative power. She says, ‘We are hard wired to connect. When human beings who trust each other interact face-to-face, their capacity to have a positive cognitive effect on each other’s brain and body is something which no robot or screen has.’

This research is very exciting for actors and NIDA Corporate tutors alike, because we have always known it to be true.
As actors, we learn the power of really listening in order to respond in the most realistic and convincing way. We learn how to keenly observe the other actor, so we can truly react to what is being given to us dramatically, spoken or unspoken.

You can’t listen to an email. It is always read with the voice of the reader (your own voice) and so is vulnerable to any number of misinterpretations.
I’m sure we have all had the unfortunate experience of being misunderstood by our three-line email response, when what we really needed to do was pick up the phone (or heaven forbid) cross the office floor to resolve a tricky situation.

I love Dr Kerr’s research into the value of face-to-face interaction. She proves that servicing all your devices is not a time saver at all, it’s simply asking your synapses to fire more frequently, risking exhaustion and ‘burn out’, rather than getting the job done better or even, as it happens, any faster at all.

So get out of that chair, cross the floor or the city and make a time to get some face time, for real.

All views expressed are authors own.

Photo supplied by Gary Wales, Photographer

Di Smith

About this author:
Diane Smith,Senior Course Manager, NIDA Corporate

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Want to know more? Give her a call today on 1300 650 357

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