The Pros and Cons of Multitasking and its Relationship with Performance and IQ

Multitasking, white laptop and brown chops-stick

Multitasking refers to the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. According to Rubinstein, Meyer, and Evans (2001), multitasking refers to the concurrent processing of two or more tasks through the process of context switching. Context switching involves the brain refocusing from one task to another.

It takes place in two or more forms: (1) concurrent multitasking, where a person attempts to perform two tasks at the same time; example-typing emails and receiving a phone call are tasks that require concurrent multiple-task.

and (2) serial multitasking, where a person alternates between two tasks quickly, for instance, texting and driving.

In today’s fast-paced world, it has become a common practice in both personal and professional settings. While it may seem efficient and time-saving, it has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Multitasking:

1. Increased Productivity

It includes increased productivity and efficiency. By juggling multiple tasks, individuals can accomplish more in a shorter period. It allows for the completion of various tasks within a given timeframe, making it easier to meet deadlines. It also enables individuals to adapt to changing priorities and handle unexpected situations effectively.

2. Enhanced Efficiency

It improves efficiency by allowing people to solve two problems at once and achieve two objectives with a single action. Understanding the task and giving attention to necessary parts can make multitasking more efficient. However, the impact on accuracy and quality must be critically evaluated.

3. Flexibility in Task Switching

Task switching in cognitive psychology refers to the ability to shift focus from one task to another. This technique is widely used in designs where there is a need to maintain attention on different work objects at different times. For example, aviation control systems and monitoring systems in nuclear power plants.


1. Reduced Focus and Concentration

However, multitasking also has its drawbacks. One of the main disadvantages is decreased focus and concentration. When attention is divided among several tasks, it becomes difficult to give each task the necessary attention it requires. This can lead to errors, poor decision-making, and reduced quality of work. It can also increase stress levels as individuals try to manage multiple responsibilities simultaneously.

2. Decreased Task Completion Time

Given these findings, it is not surprising to find that multitasking is not a skill to boost productivity, but a performance-hindering obstacle. The research is consistent in concluding that frequent multitasking not only reduces temporal and spatial task completion but also hurts cognitive and physical aspects.

3. Increased Errors and Mistakes

It has been found that multitasking detracts from the attention given to each task by increasing the cognitive load of the brain. This means that the brain struggles to distribute the required cognitive capacity for successful multitasking and we end up giving too much attention to one task and too little to the other.

4. Impacts on Cognitive Abilities

Research has shown that when the brain is forced to respond to multiple streams of information, it can suffer an overload. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls attention, working memory, and the ability to switch focus, has a part in the ability to multitask. Regulatory systems critical for goal-directed thought and action begin to deteriorate and become less effective.

Link Between IQ and Multitasking Performance

Research has shown that there is a relationship between IQ and the level of performance perfection in multitasking. Higher IQ individuals tend to perform better in multiple-task situations. This is because it requires cognitive flexibility, the ability to switch between tasks, and the capacity to manage competing demands. Individuals with higher IQs often possess these cognitive abilities, allowing them to handle multiple tasks more effectively.

However, it is important to note that multitasking can still be challenging for individuals with high IQs if they are not practiced in managing multiple tasks. Experience and practice play a significant role in improving multiple-task skills. Additionally, it is crucial to recognize that not all tasks are suitable for multitasking. Some tasks require undivided attention and should be tackled individually for optimal results. It can also worsen your performance at work and affect your health.

In conclusion, multitasking has its advantages and disadvantages. While it can increase productivity and efficiency, it can also lead to decreased focus and increased stress. The relationship between IQ and performance in multiple areas suggests that higher IQ individuals may have an advantage in handling multiple tasks, but experience and practice are equally important. It is essential to assess the nature of tasks and prioritize accordingly to make the most of multiple-task capabilities.

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