Skip to main content

Screens or People?

By March 10, 2017May 18th, 2019No Comments

Is multi-tasking even possible?

There is no doubt that the stress of modern society is almost overwhelming. All the tools that have been developed to make our lives easier have proven to do just the opposite. As we can get more done electronically, work, school and we ourselves just up the ante of what can be done in a day. It is not scientifically clear yet whether the use of those ubiquitous cell phones become an addiction or trigger an anxiety disorder. Either way, it is almost impossible to ignore them and I have worked with patients who awaken in the middle of the night to check their phones and yet others who are checking them during sex. This has become just as common in most Third World countries as well and it is rare to see anyone in public greeting another or meeting their eyes.

It is, in fact, a myth that the human brain can actually multi-task. What is actually occurring is that a designated multi-tasker is switching back and forth and doing both tasks in a distracted manner. I know that there are those of you who think you can drive and text, but, trust me, you are wrong. As for texting and sex, I would consider that self-evident. It is said that women are a little better at these multiple behaviors as a result of training, not braining, but this is just a huge generalization and not at all trustworthy in the individual case. [1]

As I have discussed at great length in my studies of the blind (some, but not many, prefer to be called individuals with visual impairment), what finally affected me most as a sighted person was the absence of eye contact, a sort of relational connection that I have grown to use personally and professionally. In fact, blind schools teach their students to pretend eye contact in order to make sighted people feel more comfortable with them. I am not endorsing this strategy at all. Why should they have to fit into our sighted world rather than the reverse? But they do try. However, a sighted person can eventually feel the absence of contact in this imitative gesture because genuine eye contact, recognized by the sighted brain, is absent. This is a form of emotional starvation for the sighted person and possibly for the non-sighted as well. [2]

Such is the case as well when we are looking at screens instead of into real eyes.


‚Äč[1] Morgan, James, “Women ‘better at multitasking’ than men”, Science Reporter, BBC News

[2] Kaschak, E., “Sight Unseen: Gender and Race through Blind Eye”

This article was originally published in Psychology Today.

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak

Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D. is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning psychologist, author and teacher. She is well-known as a speaker, workshop leader, human rights advocate and a public intellectual.