Listen: Surprise, multitaskers

Listen to a segment from HHS HealthBeat with Ira Dreyfuss.

The juggling act of talking on your cell phone while typing on your laptop while checking messages on your BlackBerry may fall apart when something surprising happens. You may miss something about what you were doing.

At Vanderbilt University, Christopher Asplund tested this by having people search for X’s in a rapidly moving stream of letters. Every so often, some people would get a quick flash of a face:

“The effect of this face appearing is that people simply could not detect the X when it occurred after the face.’’

Brain scans during the experiment showed where the face activation disrupted the search task.

It may be a reason to plan ahead so you avoid surprises.

The study in Nature Neuroscience was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Contact: Melanie Moran (615) 322-NEWS

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