By Issie Lapowsky April 17, 2013
This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.
The ability to juggle work is a standard job requirement.
Researchers have another name for this supposedly desirable skill, however: chronic multitasking.
If this sounds more like an affliction than a resumé booster, that’s because research has shown again and again that the human mind isn’t meant to multitask. Even worse, research shows that multitasking can have long-term harmful effects on brain function.
In a 2009 study, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass challenged 262 college students to complete experiments that involved switching among tasks, filtering irrelevant information, and using working memory. Nass and his colleagues expected that frequent multitaskers would outperform nonmultitaskers on at least some of these activities.
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They found the opposite: Chronic multitaskers were abysmal at all three tasks. The scariest part: Only one of the experiments actually involved multitasking, signaling to Nass that even when they focus on a single activity, frequent multitaskers use their brains less effectively.
Multitasking is a weakness, not a strength. In 2010, a study by neuroscientists at the French medical research agency Inserm showed that when people focus on two tasks simultaneously, each side of the brain tackles a different task.