The older you get, the harder it gets, according to scientists at the University of California, San Francisco. They found that the "working memory," the part of the memory system used to retain information long enough to use it, is adversely affected in elderly persons by multitasking. And according to a study last year by Wang, even though research shows it's counterproductive, we love multitasking because it makes us feel good. It's nice to think you can do two things at once.
Multitasking, of course, didn't begin with the cellphone. It's been around for a very long time.
Anthropologist Monica Smith of the University of California, Los Angeles, laid out the history of multitasking in her book, "A Prehistory of Ordinary People."
It began, she said, millions of years ago with our bipedal ancestors. When they started walking on two feet, they were free to use their hands for other tasks. That allowed them to pick up fresh fruit and take it home to the kids, or throw a spear while chasing a rabbit, or make weird noises while blowing through the horn of a bison.
Smith goes so far as to say multitasking "is what makes us human."