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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 04-Nov-12

 


Sunday 04-November-12

Thinking, walking and multitasking

Can you do more than one thing at a time? If you're female, with a stronger connection between your brain hemispheres, multi-tasking is likely to be easier then for us poor chaps. But even then, you only have so much attention to spread around. Like spinning plates, the more you take on, the less time you have for each item. And, additionally, the more time and energy you spend monitoring and rushing between items.

Bucking this notion (slightly), researcher Sabine Schaefer has shown that memory performance is actually superior whilst walking compared with sitting down. She got nine-year-olds and adults to complete memory tasks whilst sitting and walking on a treadmill. The interesting result was that memory improved for both groups when walking at their own (not a forced) pace, and was best for the harder memory task.

Ok, so walking and thinking is not exactly difficult multi-tasking. What is happening? The researchers thought the attentional pool tapped by a sensori-motor task like walking is likely separate from the attentional pool tapped by working memory. Also, physical activity increases arousal and activation, which then can be invested into the cognitive task.

In other words, a good walk helps you think.

Reference:
Schaefer, S., Lovden, M., Wieckhorst, B. and Lindenberger, U. (2010). Cognitive performance is improved while walking: Differences in cognitive-sensorimotor couplings between children and young adults. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 7 (3), 371-389


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