Search tool
Multi-tasking, inattention and distraction
Case studies

Rod Lakes, University of Wisconsin

Case study, gorilla suit: a person in a gorilla suit not seen.
  Participants in a psychological study watched a video. Following instructions, they counted basketball passes by players wearing white shirts. Approximately 50% of observers failed to notice when a person in a gorilla suit walked among the players, stopped, faced the camera, thumped the chest, and walked off. "What person in a gorilla suit?"
author link
Reference: Simons, D. J., & Chabris, C. F. (1999). "Gorillas in our midst: Sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events." Perception, 28, 1059-1074.

Case study, L. A. train wreck killing 25 people and injuring 135.
  The engineer of a Metrolink train in the Los Angeles area failed to stop at a red signal and crashed head on into another train, killing 25 people. The engineer was text messaging with a teenager at the time. Some 135 people were injured in the crash, more than 40 of them critically.
Story, Fox news
Story, Reuters

Case study, Spain train wreck: 79 dead and at least 66 serious injuries, some catastrophic.
train wreck news

Case study: use of smart phones linked to 25% of car crashes.
  Distracted driving.
  Story, Business Insider

bus driver on phone kills children

Case study, Flight 188, off-course pilots cite computer distraction.
  "Neither pilot was aware of the airplane's position until a flight attendant called about five minutes before they were scheduled to land and asked what was their estimated time of arrival," the report said. By that time, the plane, which should have begun its descent into Minneapolis about half an hour earlier, was still at 37,000 feet and more than 100 miles beyond its destination. They missed their destination because they had taken out their personal laptops in the cockpit, a violation of airline policy, so the first officer, Richard I. Cole, could tutor the captain, Timothy B. Cheney, in a new scheduling system put in place by Delta Air Lines, which acquired Northwest last fall.
New York Times article

Case studies, sponges and instruments left in surgical patients.
Sponges and instrument left in patients constitute preventable medical error that can harm or kill a surgical patient. First, do no harm.
Wikipedia article .

Case study: classroom performance.
Multitasking interferes with the performance and well being of other students.
Student editorial.

Case study: impairment of reading ability. Digital media.
Washington Post article

Case study: habitual multitasking lowers effective IQ; causes persistent impairment of ability to function.
Stanford University study.
Article in Forbes on damage to your career.

Article on Harvard study that multitasking hurts productivity and annoys your co-workers.

Videos, text and drive; consequences; 2017-2018.

Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It's not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones. article
Clearly this is preventable.

Case study, addiction; how Silicon Valley executives prevent it.
no devices for kids

Facebook usage on smartphones and gray matter volume of the nucleus accumbens, Behavioural Brain Research, 329 221-228, 30 June (2017)
This 2017 study published in Behavioral Brain Research looked at 62 participants over a five week period and found that a higher daily frequency of checking Facebook was robustly linked with smaller gray matter in the nucleus accumbens, which is located in the area of the hypothalamus. article

Holly B. Shakya Nicholas A. Christakis, A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel, Harvard Business Review, April 10, 2017. article link

Reading comprehension of material on a screen is inferior to comprehension of the same material in paper form. Students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally.
See A. Mangen, B. R. Walgermo, K. Bronnick, Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension, International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61-68 (2013).

When phone zombies become mothers:
mothers on phone