It's a busy, fast moving world many of us live in, one that frequently requires us to "multi-task" -- perform several tasks simultaneously. Some scientists say multi-tasking may not be good for our long-term memories.
A recent study reveals multi-tasking may hurt a person's memory. Subjects in the study were required to predict the weather by following a set of simple clues, while also performing a second task involving listening to musical tones.
Test results showed that while the subjects' memories were fine during the multi-tasking, it appeared to be more difficult for them to retrieve the memories later on.
Researchers say distractions that occur during the learning process become entangled with what was learned, so that one might actually need the distraction in order to remember. It's a form of learning called "habit learning."
Gerard Gioia, a researcher at Children's National Medical Center in Maryland says, "Habit learning is a more automatic kind of learning. It's learning a routine, and some very specific aspects of information. It's something that happens, oftentimes, without our overall awareness."
Gioia says another common way people learn is through "declarative learning" - learning facts so that they may be easily recalled later on, such as during a test. It's a different process from habit learning, which occurs in another part of the brain.
A separate study found that when people are distracted while they learn, for example, by the television, they were using the part of the brain associated with habit, rather than declarative learning. "Distraction is not a friend to retrieving multiple sets of information," he says.
Which could mean, if you really need to remember something important, turn off that TV.