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tv   Doc Film - Brain Overload  Deutsche Welle  October 11, 2017 7:15am-8:01am CEST

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the parts where used an airliner scars and high speed trains its customers have been scrambling to find out what has been affected and whether there's a safety. that's all for this edition of business thanks very much for joining us and see you next time take care to.
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make your smart t.v. smarter with. what you want what you want. what you want what you want to. update. extraordinary. data. you decide what's on. find out more. smart. information and communication technologies have transformed our society. digital data washes over is from on. sides we carry devices everywhere they connect
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us with loved ones coworkers and ultimately the entire planet. smartphones computers and tablets a constantly seeking our attention and our use of both as technology affects our brains and indeed our lives. these digital tools act as electronic leashes and cause cognitive overload and stress especially in the workplace researchers are only now starting to measure the effects that digital media have on people what can we do to cope. today half of the world's population uses the internet exchange one hundred fifty billion emails per day we are submerged in data and this causes i'm president of
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levels of stress. that's too much information to process it comes into fast and in volumes that are not humanly possible to handle that combines the course of your stress. with with those of stress a civil suit. has written a book on how to survive in our digital society. blames information technologies for the increase in stress in the workplace. now days the well produces as much information in two days as it did in all of printed util history the quantities are so vast that they become abstract. here's a comparison france's national library is one of the biggest in the world it has about fourteen million books every second data equivalent to two such libraries is distributed on the web. that works out to sixty three million french national
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libraries a year. i see you know we're living in an age of the wild west of technology where we've got all these different applications and devices and people are switching back and forth between all these different devices and applications it's really like the wild west because it's chaotic. we're faced with the paradox the devices that should be simplifying our lives actually seem to complicate them. how did this happen how has digital technology revolutionized the world of work. that's want cindy fell yo a researcher in information and communication sciences wants to find out by interviewing business managers about their rep paul with the digital world.
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i wanted to find out how this was impacting the workplace particularly employees who use digital technology every day and i wanted to find out whether digital devices are creating new psychosocial risks in the workplace. for how research fellow interviewed some one hundred manages because they seem to suffer most from digitally and used stress. this children often nicer to many dealing with the demands of all this information distracts them from their primary functions some of the managers told me that they feel cut off from their real work my analysis indicates that this technology has made work more intense. the work seems more condensed and more urgent. because these digital devices allow everyone to be instantly reachable all the time
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. band is one of the managers interviewed by cindy fairly young. at his last job he was stressed out because of all the digital data that came across his desk. so he got a new job. with let's say you start work on a subject at eight thirty in the morning. at eight thirty six you receive an e-mail mark urgent almost sixty percent of emails these days i'm out urgent because people think otherwise you won't answer i mean why are you receiving text then a phone call then you return to the does you started on i thirty and i will be ten fifteen ten thirty or eleven o'clock on the by now you lost the thread of what you want to do which means to me. in a meeting back. it's true that when you're constantly
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assailed by ringing. and alerts you're there you lose your concentration. you lose your concentration. over via google and obviously when he's interrupted he loses his train of thought. that's very characteristic of these environments while i describe it as electronic bombardment or water torture in my working groups there's an interruption every six minutes with this new digital working system is structured so that you can't work. see if you see what i mean it's called you know. it. these incessant demands force us to respond creating a cycle that can eat up a lot of time experts estimate that employees spend about a third of their day just dealing with emails.
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much you paid in are all works for a company that manages data networks. his job requires him to be permanently connected. with yes francis. now go ahead i'm listening to make it quick you should avoid which one of a lot of i have to be reachable twenty four hours a day weekends the nights whenever you and i'm sometimes called in the middle of the night when there are major problems that go toward ok back later to talk about it all when i would be able to sing well please and i'd be the first to say we'd all like to be able to breathe a bit and switch off from time to time of the quality. nowadays half of all managers stay connected to the office at home in the evening. in the modern world of work it's become almost impossible to do otherwise. yeah. there's a sort of unwritten law that you have to stay connected and reply to emails as soon as you get them because you're equipped with this phone and that's exactly why you
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have it all remember so to. write if you're connected to your job around the clock it can cause trouble in your personal life it could lead to divorce or at least arguments with your partner due to this intrusion of the professional world into the home. it's just not fun for fisher then. and when work takes over like that it can lead to burnout. stephanie went through that in her previous job she now works at a winery. you know you don't have her come on. time i'd often get up in the middle of the night to deal with emails from china and india i thought i was being efficient. i felt i was doing important work for the
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company so it didn't really bother me. but i was paying no attention at all to my personal life. in fact i felt that i had to be online all of the time it was a total addiction if i wasn't online i wasn't alive. i had to keep up on what was going on i check emails on the weekend during vacations even during my honeymoon. and then i realized that i had to stop. it you don't really know what triggered it was when my daughter lou said to me one day mom all you do with shout you're really mean you need an operation well actually and that's when i decided to start cutting back on being connected. connected in
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her new job stephanie still has to work online but on a more limited basis she worked out a plan with her employer stephanie narrowly avoided burnout but not everyone is so lucky so please her. we're only just becoming aware of the effects of digital stress. but can a way analyze the nature of this stress are we exhibiting new behaviors new ways of working that threaten our equity librium psychologist gloria mock is trying to find out she's a professor and the department of informatics at the university of california irvine. research focuses on the interaction of humans and technology for two decades she's carried out field studies focusing on how the growing role of digital technology is changing us. when i began i would
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interview and i would ask them about their experiences and everybody got distracted from you know so i looked for a few words like that was willing to have its employees cut off email it took me six years to find an organization. a u.s. military research center near boston agreed to take part gloria mock wanted to study the effect that a male had on staff members she observed employees on the job and measured their physiological responses. hi i'm gloria mark and we're doing a study thank you very much for volunteering so i have some devices i'd like you to . this device measures the person's heartbeat which can indicate the level of stress. and this one keeps track of the interactions between coworkers.
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and so your other colleagues when they come in close proximity to you the signals from these badges pick up each other and it can tell when you're close with another person and interacting with them ok. now we're going to cut off your e-mail for a period of five days. gloria mark compared the results before and after she discovered that those who'd had their e-mail cut off were more likely to interact directly with their coworkers the study concluded that e-mail is the leading source of stress in the office what we found was that the more time people spend on email the higher their stress is we also found that the longer time on email the lower people assessed their productivity at the end of the day for the past ten years gloria mark has been
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measuring the attention span of people who sit in front of computer screens she says there's been a dramatic change. in two thousand and four we found that the average length of time that people focused on any activity was three minutes in two thousand and twelve we found that on any computer screen people's attention was about one minute and fifteen seconds on average so there are attention shifting is happening more frequently i've also done a very large study with college undergraduate students these are the millennial generation these are young people that have grown up with the internet with digital devices with smartphones and there are attention duration on any computer screen is
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even shorter it's about forty five seconds. i think people have multitask you know for a long time i mean we've had telephone we've had radio but i think what's different now in the workplace is that people have access through digital media to more information faster than they've ever had in history people report burnout because each time you orient to a new task it's a strain so we know that multitasking. and the consequent interruptions create stress and create a cognitive overlap. in our increasingly digitalize society constant pressure and multitasking have become the norm. but how well can the brain deal with that kind of overload.
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stephon be fine is a military doctor and. a specialist in aeronautics he's been studying the cognitive capacity of pilots specifically the mental effort that's required to carry out tasks during a flight. to do that too far and his team measure the pilot's brain activity and heart rate. and observe their behavior during their flight. well you don't sound as if on it using all these parameters we're going to evaluate some of your internal activity which we can correlate with the cognitive load during the flight.
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you know what's interesting about these measurements that they give you a dynamic reading of his state during the flight in the actions and we can then analyze these readings. and i guess if you do not do this type of simulator we can simulate a flight and the occurrence of certain technical problems are going to vijay but if you know these have to be managed by the pilot who will have to deal with this increasing demand you've also done all that. if you don't have is going to move if we give them several competing tasks at the same time the pilot needs to mobilize all his resources for you in terms of both memory and attention you know he has to manage his priorities to execute his actions ok engine failure.
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ok everything's fine. if you know when the helicopter pilot has to deal with a mechanical failure in a power line yes to decide which is the most immediate danger you know how people you will probably treat the powerline is in imminent emergency but switching tasks has a cost in terms of information treatment time and in terms of errors you can observe this in a simulator mission yet. during the same united engine failure. malfunction
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has occurred can you manage a conversation at the same time yes. can i ask you what is three times for. an answer twelve and can you recite the alphabet backwards. for. each time you switch tasks you will slow your response time and you also become more tired. the impression of dealing with multiple tasks is deceptive because in fact each of these tasks is dealt with superficially. right. the analysis of the data recorded during the test indicates that multitasking reduces performance even in experienced pilots.
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many people claim that they can use digital devices to multitask efficiently but in most cases the impression of efficiency is merely an illusion. of what i actually happens in our brain when we try to handle several tasks at once . and what impact does multitasking have on our attention span. is a research at the university of. she specializes in cognitive neuroscience studying human attention span. doctor says that attention comes in different forms. but i don't think there is only one type of attention there are several varieties. and they are based on different cerebral mechanisms different types of activity in the brain that's what i'm trying to unravel. it.
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for example. is studying sustained attention the ability to remain attentive to several minutes or even hours. and selective attention which helps us to show. townhome wanted background noise in our environment research i wanted to find out how these mechanisms work together when we multitask . and this experiment to imagining brain activity while the test subject tries to perform two tasks at once. for. printing i'd like you to count the number of times you hear your name you date at the same time numbers will appear on the screen when you see the number two left click the mouse if you want to thank you.
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so much let's start. the signals from the electrodes in the back of the head indicate that the subject has become less alert she's paying less attention to the tasks at hand is going to confirm. it is using the same network of neurons as she carries out those two tasks that leads to a conflict in her brain. when you talk on the phone and write an email at the same time the brain tends to alternate between those two tests so while writing you may miss something on the phone. these two tasks both use the brain's language network
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and when we try to do them at the same time the network becomes such rated one of the tasks will lose out. folks in the morning and it is a comedic you've all but you. oh there's lots of noise in the workplace phones ringing coworkers talking scientists call this norm curtain and information . like the deep sunless experiment that noise distracts our attention even though we're able to ignore most of it. the brain has inhibited mechanisms that reduce our response to non-pertinent sounds while we're carrying out a tone ask now in the case of sounds it's as if the brain silences them and stops reacting to that information. from this from.
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the inhibitor mechanisms are essential because our brains are constantly bombarded with sound and visual information. but when people multitask those filters don't work as well. when we try to do two things at once we can't properly filter out non-pertinent stimuli like the sound of a coffee machine nearby or someone walking down the hallway. this experiment shows that when people do two things at once they can't filter out background noise effectively and their attention suffers the start is refute the notion that some people are multitask has. just mckee consistent there are no serious cognitive studies that show that young people are more capable of multitasking than older people are. in fact young people zap around constantly and
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that can be harmful. we might expect young people to experience less stress because they are supposedly comfortable with digital devices lyrically newsweek uses with zol is a little unique it's a deal. astonishingly studies show that the opposite is true a major european survey involving thirty thousand employees found that stress levels related to information technologies were significantly higher among young people compared to older people so pleasant to be more superior. that survey conducted by the j.f.k. market research institute in twenty nine countries showed that thirty nine percent of people under thirty believe that work takes up too much of their lives. digital devices constantly demand our attention so we have to learn how to deal with these multiple distractions starting at an early age.
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in france experts have developed workshops that it is nine to enhance the attention span of school children. the workshops are conducted by neuroscientist john feely plush show in cooperation with education administrators in the leon region. the show is convinced that children can learn to resist the siren call of digital devices. now if possible you too i never thought i'd find myself back at school. i thought i was finished with that but i took on the challenge of implementing a program to train children's attention span and you just want to toss your shoes off oh look here the scientist my kids. one thousand pupils are taking part in this program it's aimed at helping them to resist the
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massive on salt of digital content. the idea is to show children that they can control their attention span a skill that will also benefit them in later life if the pilot program while it will be extended to all schools in france. what is the brain for. for thinking. right for being attentive as you like but you can also have fun with it was amusing. it all depends on how much importance we attach to attention. and i mean if a family focuses on this and makes it a priority then the children will be more attentive. let's say you're reading a story to an infant if the child's attention starts to wander and you stop reading
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then the child will realize that you expect a certain level of attention. there are lots of little things that parents can do to improve a child's attention span with us. so we have to pay attention to our attention span it plays a key role in our lives but it is increasingly threatened by digital communication . when the brain is attentive it uses regions that are responsible for high level cognitive functions like memory planning and understanding. but when you're not paying attention those parts of the brain remain silent or do other things and. here's another exercise the children have to keep refocusing their attention so that they can stay on the balance beam the mental picture of the baby will be used
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throughout the workshop. at least in the kitchen. they have to stay on the beam despite the forces that tend to pull them to one side or the other it's the same with attention. if i have a task to perform to get from point a to point b. i'm going to try to remain focused despite all the distractions i might want to talk to my friends for example or i have an idea. i have to resist those forces by remembering this line in the body i have to relax and try to hold things together stabilize the body of the mind and the attention. in another attention boosting exercise let's show trains children to break down assigned tasks into component parts. i have to talk to my
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room yes let's. this is a complex project for children but if they break it down into separate tox like organizing the toys and then making the band they stay focused on the studies and for the children often trying to do everything at once and they lose concentration . we teach them to separate it into a series of smaller objectives. but can adults do the same thing divide the working day into a series of mini missions. the key to maintaining attention is to send to series have go and then carry them out one by one. that doesn't seem too difficult but most people think that they can get more done by doing several things at once. and the plan isn't for me children and adults often become distracted it's because they haven't set
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a clear goal the brain makes decisions of several times per second about what's important and what isn't and if you haven't set your priorities you know that decision making process can become very complicated. plus digital devices make a huge demands on our attention we can't just focus on two or three attention interesting things i say there's more like fifteen thousand. let's say i'm on the internet trying to answer a specific question and i see an ad or link that says click here so i do it and then i forget what i was looking for. multitasking takes up a lot of memory resources task number one number two and so forth and that causes cognitive overload the brain can't function properly. so it's
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better to set up a series of many tasks and deal with them one at a time. john philip believes that people can learn to pay better attention just takes training. but even if we can filter out distractions can we constantly stimulate our brains without causing damage. is a neuro psychology researcher at the university of. new information technologies provide excellent access to knowledge. but i think we have to consider how they impact our daily lives and the workings of our brain.
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in this was. one part of the human brain definitely needs occasional down time a system of neurons the default mode network that's what they're investigating here. this is a network that activates when people are awake for rest not doing very much but not in sleep mode. when we're not doing much and our thoughts wander the brain keeps working but in a different way. the default mode network. not concentrating on a specific task such as making a calculation writing an email this network involves several regions of the brain. you can see these red zones that's the default network. it covers the middle part
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of the prefrontal cortex and towards the back of the posterior signal it cortex. so we're talking about the areas over the forehead. and the areas at the back in the folds of the cerebral hemispheres. this network becomes active for example when we're driving on a familiar road good weather with little traffic. will not but vito's still paying attention just less than usual and a case of danger we can react right away asked cerebral machinery allows us to stay alert and do other things it might seem simple but it's an elaborate mechanism and it's very important for our mental aqua librium. to stash his research shows that the default mode network plays
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a fundamental role in our memory. to maintain memory it seems essential to take proper care of the brain's default network. that means taking mental breaks far from digital stimuli. i believe that the work of the brain the work of synthesizing memory can function properly only when we give the brain time to process and reflect. during this time it should not be at the massey of external stimulation. the stimulus makes them. memory is not just a reservoir of data it also synthesizes our experiences we don't want to overload
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this vital resource. but digital information is so attractive to many people that they just can't do without it people can't control their urge to to check email to check facebook tuesday switch to the internet so people report when we interview them that they just feel compelled to check in with isha i've been in areas with no network coverage my cell phone different i felt the stress starting to build up of a high stress to the point where it felt like civilization had forgotten me really really this year usually i was out of touch and i couldn't reach anyone else if i needed to feel sure that it was worth spending half an hour or an hour in an area without any network whatsoever you made me feel stressed genuinely really stressed with. where does that urge to have constant access to information come from. is it like being addicted to
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alcohol or drugs. because it also once used them but the brain has a circuit called the reward system it's composed of neurons whose main function is to memorize the things we like an activity of food a visual image like this process allows us to drink when we're thirsty and eat when we're hungry. but the reward system also reacts to a lot of other things. including fresh stimuli like information. smartphones constantly bombard you with information and new content and they act as a powerful stimulus on the reward system. seceded machines or external peace on postage if you like. the digital environment time to the reward system much as drugs do but in the absence of serious mental or physical harm we
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really can't speak of a digital addiction in a medical sense. will that be too bad. it's more a problem of excessive behavior we need to find out more about what causes this intensive use how does it affect society or a person's family life. in any case these issues need to be discussed since digital media have now become an integral part of our working life. you'd have to say. if we want to deal effectively with digital stress we have to take a close look at the way we use computers and smartphones. at the time may come when these devices might actually help us to deal with an increased cognitive load. professor robert jacob and his
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team have been working on new ways to improve technology in this area. they're trying to develop a computer that can read our mental capacity in real time when we're walking. the computer would send us lots of data when our brain is capable of handling it and less when the brain is overworked. we think of the person in the computer as too powerful information processors connected to each other by a narrow band with very limited connection which is the user interface the screen the keyboard and mouse with ever so we're trying to improve the amount of information that can be passed across that you know our particular work we're trying to improve the information from the user to the computer because that seems like the one with the the lowest bandwidth with current technology. the computer
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won't be able to read our thoughts but it could keep track of our mental workload. jacob's team has developed imaging software that analyzes blood flow in the prefrontal cortex the brain consumes more oxygen when it's working hard. the computer is then able to vary the quantity of information it sends to us based on mental. conducting tests that you simulated traffic control time asks the user is controlling several airplanes at once they have to time share between the different airplanes first have to adjust this airplane then that airplane then go back to the first airplane what we did in this system was we tried to adjust the number of airplanes that you're assigned to control based on your workload we don't want to give you too few airplanes or
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you'll get bored we don't want to give you too many or you can't handle them we like to adjust the airplanes to your mental state. we can also use this kind of measurement to decide when and whether to interrupt the user if the user is in the middle of doing something difficult and intense that's not a good time to interrupt if they're at the end of a task and a little bit of a long with less short term memory that's a good time to interrupt so our goal is to make what we call implicit user interfaces that pull information out of the user without taking any of their attention in order to do it. base research would initially be used by any traffic controllers who have to keep track of huge amounts of information resulting in permanent stress in the long term the results could also be applied to other kinds of walk. and if you're not driving airplanes but doing office work this also applies your workload may go up or down and we can adjust adjust what you have to
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do based on it. jacob also wants to develop a system that filters the data that we receive on digital devices based on our cognitive load during peak work periods would receive edited versions. if successful this research could go a long way toward reducing our information workload but is that really good news or just another intrusion of digital devices into the private workings of our minds. it's too early to say nor is it clear how far humans can adapt their behavior to deal with increasingly complex technology. for a living in this ng where we keep inventing wonderful technologies and keep throwing them at people and people are at this point where they're not quite understanding how to use them and so we have to think how we can design technology
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to adapt better to how humans think we want to design. technologies to promote productivity for people to be a fact but also it's to not infringe on our well. that. affects my. life so we will have to find ways to limit the harmful effects of information overload including the disruption of attention span perhaps most importantly we have to reclaim the right to be disconnected.
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