New Insight into Multitasking

From Kurzweil AI News: The brain’s three layers of working memory allow you to multitask.

Thanks to researchers at Rice University and GIT, there’s more support now for the idea that there are three levels of memory within the brain that all contribute to working memory. For those of you reading who don’t have a cognitive psychology background, working memory is essentially our short-term memory capability that allows us the flexibility to integrate multiple stimuli, reason about them, and then perform tasks based upon them. The parts of the brain responsible for working memory are the parietal cortex, frontal cortex, and anterior cingulate (chunk of brain just beneath the frontal cortex). What the research says is the human brain multitasks based off of patterns associated with task performance, with these patterns being monitored by our attentional focus. If these patterns are new the multitasking becomes more difficult, but if they’re not then they we expend less mental effort while multi-tasking.

From a strict UX perspective, this is probably not interesting to most practitioners as we’ll still look at multitasking as multitasking. However, for those of us interested in brain processes, it helps us wrap our heads around why we see people function as they do during field studies and lab tests.

More information on the research, including study details, can be found at PhysOrg: New study proves the brain has three layers of working memory. Please note that the research does not prove anything–it just offers support for the concept. Scientific method does not prove, it only offers evidence for or against theories.