Science of Learning Research Centre

PEN #6 Multitasking Impairs Memory & Learning

Teacher Blog          Parent Blog          Student Blog          Research


Multitasking – can we do multiple things at once? Researchers have the answer

fact sheet – video – podcast

OK multitaskers … can you read, watch and listen to different things at the same time? The simple answer is NO! fact sheet

PEN Principle #6 copyApplying neuroscience, cognitive psychology and educational processes, Australian researchers have been assessing a range of teaching and learning processes in an effort to develop science-based strategies, tools and information designed to improve Australia’s learning and educational outcomes. video

On studying multitasking, researchers have determined that the brain actually switches rapidly between tasks rather than works on simultaneous actions at the one time. podcast

Although many people believe they can effectively do two things at once neuroscientists have shown that multitasking activates inhibitory networks within the brain suggesting the brain is actually switching between tasks rather than doing both tasks simultaneously.

When individuals try to do two things at the same time, they probably don’t realise that instead they actually jump back and forth between the two activities.

Neuroscientists say this rapid switching between tasks has been shown to activate secondary, less reliable memory networks within the brain. It is these reasons that people show impaired performance and memory when attempting to multitask.

In the classroom setting, students who have attempted to multitask have not only shown impaired performance and learning, but also reduced attention span.

This information is particularly important in a classroom environment with ever-changing technology bringing additional forms of communication into play.

The Multitasking Impairs Memory and Learning message is among a series of new PEN Principles – Psychology, Education and Neuroscience – developed by Australia’s Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) to assist teachers and students across the country.

The PEN Principles have been developed in video, podcast and poster format to enable ease of use by teachers, students and parents.


About The SLRC

The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) was established in 2013, funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with the vision to improve learning outcomes at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels through scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies. The SLRC brings together more than 100 neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers from across the country, collaborating on programs to better understand learning, using a range of innovative experimental techniques and programs.