Did You Miss the Clown on a Unicycle?

On January 26, 2010 the U.S. Department of Transportation issued regulations prohibiting bus or truck drivers from sending text messages while operating commercial vehicles. Those who choose to ignore these rules may be subject to a whopping fine of up to $2750.00. An increasing number of states are banning texting while driving as well. Remember the Texas bus driver who plowed into stopped traffic while texting? It was all caught on video!Texting at wheel.

The ability to multitask seems  to have become the hallmark of any successful person today. Right? Some of us get a bit jealous of people who seem to do many things at once. We wonder how our children can study with music, the television on, and email their friends–all at the same time! Is there any science to support multitasking?

When heavy media multitaskers were compared to light media multitaskers, they were found to be more distracted by irrelevant stimuli, respond more slowly to memory probes, were more susceptible to interference by familiar looking items, and took longer to switch tasks when distracted. The heavy multitaskers had trouble ignoring irrelevant things, and were more likely to miss important ones.

When college students listened to recorded instructions for accomplishing a task, and then were intermittently asked for verbal responses to related questions it was found that thinking about what to say and speaking took more cognitive resources than listening. Speaking or getting ready to speak disrupted their visual processing.

Cell phone using pedestrians on a college campus changed direction and had near-collisions more often than non-cell phone walkers! In this same study, only 25% of those talking on a cell noticed a clown riding a unicycle, while 61% of those listening to a music player did, and 71% of those walking in pairs did also. 

Not only is driving while talking on a cell phone dangerous, so is even walking! Texting could be even more hazardous.

In light of this growing body of compelling evidence suggesting that multitasking may not be efficient, effective or safe as it is popularly perceived to be. What about multitasking in our spiritual life? Are we distracted by the irrelevant things of this world? Perhaps Paul said it best, “I focus on this one thing…I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize…” (Philippians 3:13-15).