Science Current Events | Science News |

Multitasking is hardest in the early morning

May 07, 2007

Multitasking seems to come easier for some and is virtually impossible for others, however new research shows that it is difficult for all in the late night and early morning.

Previous studies have shown that the time of day greatly affects human's reaction time (for a review, see Carrier & Monk, 2000). This performance decrement is constantly found during the night with its' lowest point in the early morning. This leads to the assumption that the time of day directly affects the speed of cognitive processing.

Daniel Bratzke at the University of Tuebingen wished to take these studies a bit further and figure out what makes our reaction time so slow during the wee hours. While many researchers have studied this, Bratzke focused on one of the three stages of human processing because he argues that measuring overall reaction time does not allow researchers to separate the effects of three different processing stages. Bratzke describes, for example, that the stage models of human performance assume at least three distinct processing stages: early perceptual, central decisional and late motor. He writes, "Given this widely accepted view, the question arises whether time of day affects all processing stages in general or one or more stages selectively."

There is evidence that the circadian variations in reaction time are at least partly due to changes in two of the processing stages; in the early perceptual stage for example, it takes longer to detect and identify a visual stimulus if you are tired. Likewise, manual dexterity, grip strength, and tapping, which assess motor ability, are susceptible to our circadian rhythm, with a low point in the morning and peak in the late evening.

Bratzke wished to localize the time-of-day effects on processes that occur during the central decisional stage, such as decision-making. Along with his colleagues, he hypothesized that reaction time performance decrements during the night might be associated with slowing of this central processing stage. They refer to this as the central-slowing hypothesis.

Bratzke observed six subjects during 28 hours of constant wakefulness. During this time, the subjects performed various cognitive tasks every two hours. Bratzke used a dual-task performance test (psychological refractory period paradigm) to assess the duration of the central processing stage with two stimuli introduced at different times. The results provided evidence for a circadian modulation on reaction time with a constant decrement in the late evening while reaching it's lowest point in the early morning. Importantly, dual-task interference increased in the night and early morning as well. Thus, central processing slowed down during the night, a result that supports the central-slowing hypothesis.

It is important to note that Bratzke monitored circadian phases through salivary melatonin concentration and body temperature. These biological markers of circadian phases corresponded with the decrement in reaction time, telling us that sleep deprivation was not the only moderator in the performance decrement.

These results build upon a recent study showing that even the well-practiced simple task of vehicle braking is subject to dual-task slowing. When watching the car brake in front of you while processing another stimulus concurrently the braking response can be markedly slowed down. The present results suggest that dual-task slowing as e.g. in this driving situation is influenced by the time of day with the most pronounced slowing in the early morning. Bratzke writes, "in addition to sleepiness, a combination of slowed reactions and impaired central efficiency might contribute to impaired driving performance and a higher risk for traffic accidents in the early morning."

Association for Psychological Science

Related Multitasking Current Events and Multitasking News Articles

Kids who text and watch TV simultaneously likely to underperform at school
The more time teenagers spend splitting their attention between various devices such as their phones, video games or TV, the lower their test scores in math and English tend to be.

Parents' top fears about teen cellphone use
Parents' fears about their teenagers' heavy use of cell phones and social media may be exaggerated, according to a new report from Duke University researchers. However, there are important exceptions in the areas of cyberbullying and sleep disruption.

Study in INFORMS journal: Offline TV ads prompt online purchases by multitaskers
Many television advertisers voice fears that distracted viewers -- those increasingly frenetic multitaskers using smartphones, laptops and tablets while viewing TV - are becoming less receptive to advertisers' messages.

When the baby comes, working couples no longer share housework equally
When highly educated, dual-career couples have their first child, both spouses think the baby increases their workloads by equal amounts - but a new study suggests that's not true.

Tango dancing benefits Parkinson's patients
Dancing the Argentine tango could have potential benefits for people at certain stages in the development of Parkinson's disease (PD), according to findings in a new study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital -The Neuro, McGill University and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

Johns Hopkins researchers identify 'missing culprit' in heart failure
Working with lab animals and human heart cells, scientists from Johns Hopkins and other institutions have identified what they describe as "the long-sought culprit" in the mystery behind a cell-signaling breakdown that triggers heart failure.

Iowa State professor says Facebook not to blame for negative impact on grades
It may not come as a surprise that the more time college students, particularly freshmen, spend on Facebook, the more their grades suffer.

How quality of sleep impacts academic performance in children
Making sure school-aged kids get to sleep at a regular hour is often a struggle for parents.

New recommendations for return to activity after concussion in military personnel
Military service members with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion, should follow a six-step process of progressive activity, leading to return to active duty, according to new clinical recommendations by an expert panel.

Wayne State University study reveals mature motorists worse at texting and driving
A Wayne State University interdisciplinary research team in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has made a surprising discovery: older, more mature motorists -- who typically are better drivers in many circumstances -- are much worse than their younger counterparts when texting while driving.
More Multitasking Current Events and Multitasking News Articles

The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done

The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done
by Dave Crenshaw (Author)

In a compelling business fable, The Myth of Multitasking confronts a popular idea that has come to define our hectic, work-a-day world. This simple yet powerful book shows clearly why multitasking is, in fact, a lie that wastes time and costs money. Far from being efficient, multitasking actually damages productivity and relationships at work and at home.

Effective Multitasking: 7 Habits to Boost Your Effectiveness

Effective Multitasking: 7 Habits to Boost Your Effectiveness
by Piotr Nabielec (Author), Abraham Storer (Editor), Mikolaj Walanus (Editor), Mikolaj Walanus (Editor)

We live in busy times. Our task lists and responsibilities are constantly growing. Effectiveness is key. Doing two or more things at the same time proves ineffective. True multitasking is a myth - no one should expect it to work. However, it is possible to deal with our e-mail, events, and tasks in a manner that appears simultaneous from the perspective of hours and days. This is what I call "effective multitasking.” Studies found that most people, regardless of their company and position, are struggling to keep up with their e-mail, task lists, and calendars. This book introduces a framework based on 7 surprisingly simple habits that will help you organize, reduce stress, relieve your mind and find a natural style of organization. The simplicity of these habits makes them a powerful...

The Multitasking Myth: Handling Complexity in Real-World Operations (Ashgate Studies in Human Factors for Flight Operations)

The Multitasking Myth: Handling Complexity in Real-World Operations (Ashgate Studies in Human Factors for Flight Operations)
by Loukia D. Loukopoulos (Author), R. Key Dismukes (Author), Immanuel Barshi (Author)

Despite growing concern with the effects of concurrent task demands on human performance, and research demonstrating that these demands are associated with vulnerability to error, so far there has been only limited research into the nature and range of concurrent task demands in real-world settings. This book presents a set of NASA studies that characterize the nature of concurrent task demands confronting airline flight crews in routine operations, as opposed to emergency situations. The authors analyze these demands in light of what is known about cognitive processes, particularly those of attention and memory, with the focus upon inadvertent omissions of intended actions by skilled pilots. The studies reported within the book employed several distinct but complementary methods:...

MULTITASKING HURTS!: How to rebuild your professional life with Monotasking

MULTITASKING HURTS!: How to rebuild your professional life with Monotasking

It's time to forget all those stupid thing about the benefits of multitasking. Now we know finally that multitasking hurts! The only way to be more productive and effective is to approach the life with monotasking. Let's see how...

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
by Gary Keller (Author), Jay Papasan (Author)

The ONE Thing has made more than 350 appearances on national bestseller lists, including #1 Wall Street Journal, NewYork Times, and USA Today. It won 12 book awards, has been translated into 27 languages, chosen as one of the Top 5 Business Books of 2013 by Hudson's Booksellers and one of Top 30 Business Books of 2013 by Executive Book Summaries.Voted one of Top 100 Business Books of All Time on Goodreads. People are using this simple, powerful concept to focus on what matters most in their personal and work lives. Companies are helping their employees be more productive with study groups, training, and coaching. Sales teams are boosting sales. Churches are conducting classes and recommending for their members. By focusing their energy on one thing at a time people are living more...

Multitasking:“Don’t Do It! How to get more done in less time. Why Multitasking does not work and single tasking does: How to get more done in less time. ... focus, Distractions, Stress, Organization,)

Multitasking:“Don’t Do It! How to get more done in less time. Why Multitasking does not work and single tasking does: How to get more done in less time. ... focus, Distractions, Stress, Organization,)

Imagine getting more done while doing less!
“In this book, we will look at a few different ways to stop multitasking and start concentrating on one task at a time to be more productive. We will also look at the disadvantages of multitasking.
By the time you get to the end of this eBook, you will have known how multitasking makes you smarter, for it indeed does that. You will also know how single tasking makes you more productive as well as what multitasking really does to your brain.”
Get more done now!



Multitasking is a very delicate prospect for those in the working world. It isn't intended for every piece of work, nor every person. But in this book by Alex Nagel you can learn a few easy tricks that allow for much simpler multitasking.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide: 101 Inspiring and Amusing Stories for Mothers Who Do It All

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide: 101 Inspiring and Amusing Stories for Mothers Who Do It All
by Jack Canfield (Author), Mark Victor Hansen (Author), Amy Newmark (Author)

Moms are the busiest people in the world! They juggle kids, husbands, jobs, housework, and more. These 101 stories from other multitasking moms will inspire and amuse the woman who does it all!

Moms do it all – they juggle kids, husbands, home and office…. This collection will inspire and entertain masters of multitasking with its 101 stories from busy moms like them. Filled with words of wisdom, lessons learned, funny moments and juggling success, this book will brighten any mother’s day.

The Multitasking Women and her Health

The Multitasking Women and her Health

The super-busy-multitasking-woman is a reality in the present world. She needs lot of energy to carry out the different tasks in her office as well as in her home. She must be in a position to relax quickly to have fun in her life too. Many of these super-busy-multitasking-women are suffering from less energy. One reason is iron deficiency with the result of less oxygen supply to the cells. The second reason is dehydration of the body. Around 55% of the body weight in women is water. 5% dehydration means the symptoms are exactly like iron deficiency and the result is extreme tiredness. Exercises needn’t be very long and short and intense exercises are good as well as important. This book gives you all the necessary tips for the multitasking women.

Distracted Driving: The Multi-Tasking Myth (You Be the Judge) (Volume 1)

Distracted Driving: The Multi-Tasking Myth (You Be the Judge) (Volume 1)
by Steven D. Gacovino Esq. (Author), Edward Lake Esq. (Author), Luke W Russell (Author)

We all want to believe we can drive responsibly and monitor distractions. But our attention is limited by nature, and we are often very subtly distracted from noticing things right in front of us. Depending on what you're doing while you're driving, you could literally miss seeing a giraffe grazing on the roadside. Because of distractions, many people have failed to see a gorilla beating its chest right in front of them, and this is no joke. We really are not good multi-taskers when our attention is spread over tasks that require dedicated attention. That's why conversations on cellphones turn out to be a serious distraction to drivers. Read this book and see what you think. And then see what you think about whether it's fair to the rest of the people in your car or on the road when you...

© 2017