There’s been a lot of criticism in the blogosphere of a widely reported news story this week about ‘infomania‘. If you haven’t already, have a quick read then come back.
Mind Hacks, amongst other, less thoughtful responses, question the use of the study. There are two main criticisms:
1. That the connection between being distracted and impaired performance is hardly groundbreaking.
Yes, but…remember that the people in this study were specifically told not to answer the phone and not to answer any emails. People are suffering a serious cognitive deficit just from the presence of potential distracters. This has important implications for the many companies who ask their employees to work in open-plan offices.
2. After the distractions are over people’s performance returns to normal.
Yes, but…in real life there is no ‘after’. At work, many people have emails arriving continuously, as well as phones going all around them. In a busy office this acts as an almost continuous distractor.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
This study is not just telling you that distractors are distracting. It’s telling you that a huge proportion of the workforce is working in conditions that are seriously detrimental to their performance.