Study Finds Older People Distracted by Multitasking

April 11th, 2011

This article from the Times is somewhat misleading, and kinda obfuscates the most important conclusion. Simply put, old people who attempt to multitask are distracted, and their short term memory is impeded. Younger people do not have the same reaction.

Researchers said the key finding of the new study is that people between the ages of 60 and 80 have significantly more trouble remembering tasks after experiencing a brief interruption than do people in their 20s and 30s.

During the study, subjects were asked to look at a scene, then were interrupted for several seconds by an image of a person’s face. They were asked to identify the person’s gender and approximate age, and then returned to answer questions about the earlier scene. Older subjects found it much harder to disengage from the interruption and reestablish contact with the scene, the researchers found.

I am no scientist, but this anecdotally reflects a current divide I sense in legal academia. Older professors see law students on their laptop, listening in class, texting their friends, and think, well there is no way I can possibly do all those things and still learn. So of course the students can’t.

Unsurprisingly, the younger generation of students, who grew up around technology are able to multitask without diminshing their short-term memory, regardless of what Profs may think.