Dec 16, 2008

Effects of information overload

A sustained negative neurological effect of information overload has been identified by psychiatrist E.M. Hallowell. He has called this effect Attention Deficit Trait (ADT).

It isn't an illness; it's purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live. When a manager is desperately trying to deal with more input than he possibly can, the brain and body get locked into a reverberating circuit while the brain's frontal lobes lose their sophistication, as if vinegar were added to wine.

The result is black-and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. People with Attention Deficit Trait have difficulty staying organised, setting priorities, and managing time, and they feel a constant low level of panic and guilt.

Attention Deficit Trait extends to people working in knowledge environments, which in today is a large portion of the workforce. A Basex survey showed that 28% (2.1 hours) of a knowledge worker’s day is consumed by interruptions. In the United States alone, this translates to 28 billion lost working hours and $588 million in lost profits every year.

Other studies have also shown negative consequences as a result of information overload, such as ignoring anything past the first few options, making mistakes, having difficulty relating the details to the overall issue, wasting time, and needing more time to reach decisions. Read more...

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