Pull your ears away from that cell phone: Multitasking is a myth. New research shows we can’t really concentrate on two things at once; rather, the executive functions of the brain sweep quickly between multiple tasks. It’s thought that survival and the hunt made this rapid refocusing of attention an evolutionary boon. NPR checked in with researchers studying the phenomenon.
“People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves," said an MIT neuroscientist. At the University of Michigan, MRI images show the brain's spritely back-and-forth when presented with multiple tasks. While we can’t truly think of two things at once, we can prioritize as the brain zips between them. That’s why we’ve “become dominant on the planet,” says one researcher.