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‘Heavy’ Multitasking May Cramp Your Memory

A new review summarizes a decade’s worth of research on the relationship between media multitasking and various domains of cognition, including working memory and attention.

When doing the analysis, Anthony Wagner noticed a trend emerging in the literature: People who frequently use several types of media at once, or “heavy media multitaskers,” performed significantly worse on simple memory tasks.

The smartphones that are now ubiquitous were just gaining popularity when Wagner, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Memory Laboratory, became interested in the research of his colleague, Clifford Nass, on the effects of media multitasking and attention.

Though the early data didn’t convince Wagner, he recommended some cognitive tests for Nass to use in subsequent experiments. More than 11 years later, Wagner was intrigued enough to write a review on past research findings, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and contribute some of his own.

Wagner spoke with Stanford Report to explain the findings and discuss why it’s premature to determine the impact of the results.

Q: How did you become interested in researching media multitasking and memory?

A: I was brought into a collaboration with...

Three Reasons Your Career Has Stalled

For those who are curious about why they haven’t risen to the rank they feel worthy of at work, it may be time to start pointing fingers at pandas.

Yes, pandas. That’s the term Elena Lytkina Botelho and Katie Creaghof the management consulting firm ghSMART have given to problems that on the surface seem small and are likely easy to fix (think body odor, or a speaking style that colleagues find off-putting, for example) but can end up stalling a person’s career.

“Pandas look innocent, but their powerful jaws deliver a bite stronger than a jaguars’,” Botelho and Creagh wrote in a recent piece for Harvard Business Review. When they examined the cases of 113 candidates who got shortlisted for C-suite roles but didn’t get the job, they found that 62% of them “had at least one ‘panda’ issue and 10% had more than one.”

They also found that 93% of the so-called panda traits hampering the candidates’ prospects fell into one the following categories: 

Poor executive presence

The largest bucket, executive presence, is an amorphous concept, but 36% of the criticisms the consultants identified fit under this label.

To lack executive presence could mean...

The Easiest And Most Effective Way To Make Your Colleagues Feel Happy And Safe At Work

The business case for investing in employee satisfaction and inclusion is clear: When employees feel like they belong at work, they’re happier, more productive, and more engaged—which means they do better work and drive higher returns for their employers. Plus, working with a ton of grumps is a drag.

So, how do you make your employees happy? Conventional wisdom advocates for accolades (think “employee of the month” awards), financial benefits (promotions, bonuses), face time with senior leadership, and employee networking groups.

Beneficial as these measures are, a new study conducted by the consulting firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) suggests the key to employee satisfaction and belonging is far simpler, and less expensive. EY surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 employed Americans, seeking to understand how they define belonging, what makes them feel included or excluded at work, and the emotional impact of inclusion and exclusion in the workplace.

Above any other measure, nearly 40% of American workers surveyed said they feel the greatest sense of belonging and happiness at work when colleagues simply check in with them, asking how they are doing both personally and professionally. This finding fits in nicely with a 2017...

Job Interview Mistakes That You Might Not Notice—But Recruiters Will

A good friend called me last month to ask a favor. His son (I’ll call him Neil) was interviewing for his dream job—would I be willing to help him prepare for the interview? I spoke with Neil and invited him to come to my office for a mock interview.

Neil had obviously done his homework on the firm and was well-prepared for typical questions asked during an interview, as well as some curveballs. He gave a solid handshake and plenty of eye contact. Yet there were a couple of places in the interview where he fell short. When I pointed these out, Neil was both surprised and grateful for the feedback, saying that he would not have known he was committing these gaffes had we not met in person.

There’s an enormous amount of “how-to” information online about preparing for a job interview. Studying for hours online, however, doesn’t guarantee you’ll make a solid impression in person. Hiring managers quickly notice things that are in your blind spot. My meeting with Neil encouraged me to reach out to colleagues in the recruiting field to ask: What faux pas are candidates committing that don’t get...

The Problem With Being Perfect

When the psychologist Jessica Pryor lived near an internationally renowned university, she once saw a student walking into a library holding a sleeping bag and a coffee maker.

She’s heard of grad students spending 12 to 18 hours at a time in the lab. Their schedules are literally meant to be punishing: If they’re scientists-in-training, they won’t allow themselves to watch Netflix until their experiments start generating results. “Relationships become estranged, people stop inviting them to things, which leads them to spend even more time in the lab,” Pryor told me.

Along with other therapists, Pryor, who is now with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, is trying to sound the alarm about a tendency among young adults and college students to strive for perfection in their work—sometimes at any cost. Though it is often portrayed as a positive trait—a clever response to the “greatest weaknesses” question during job interviews, for instance—Pryor and others say extreme perfectionism can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.

Along with other therapists, Pryor, who is now with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, is trying to sound the alarm about a tendency among young adults and...