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Something to think about... / blog
You can Only Do Two Things at Once

Written by on May 4, 2010

A group of French researchers have discovered an important aspect about our ability to multitask. They found that we might only be able to do two things by design.

The researchers scanned the 32 test subjects frontal cortex, while asked to perform multi-tasking experiments. When the volunteers completed one task at a time, one side of a certain area of the frontal lobes lighted up. But, when they completed two tasks at the same time, the lobes divided the tasks between them.

And when a third task was introduced people’s brain simply maxed out, and hence people started to make irrational decisions.

Or to put it in a simple way, our brain is essentially a dual-core CPU.

  • Do one task, and your brain will very efficiently use whatever core best suited for the task
  • Do two tasks, and your brain will divide the task into each core.
  • Do three or more tasks, and your brain is running over 100%, and starts to lag or skip instructions to keep up. You will no longer be thinking straight.

We still need more research into this area, but this is very important research. If this is true, it has a profound impact on how we create interaction and engagement.

This essentially proves that customization and settings are not that good an idea. You shouldn’t give people more than two choices at any time. And you should definitely not force people into an overly complex environment where people have to handle multiple operations in real-time.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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