MCAT CARS Skills—The Impact of Constant Interruptions

Session 24

Today’s article is all about distraction. Jack from Jack Westin is again joining us as we dive into an interesting topic, which isn’t actually focused on reading skills. Students have this common issue of staying focused.

When reading passages, you want to answer questions based on the author’s opinion. But Jack explains that for this passage, the focus is really about getting the big picture. Does it resonate with you as you go through your life and in your day-to-day interactions?

Jack believes that reading this article will make your life a little better. Technology is everywhere in our lives and it has a great impact. So this is definitely an interesting article to take to heart.

Link to article:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world

It is difficult to imagine life before our personal and professional worlds were so dominated and “switched on” via smartphones and the other devices that make us accessible and, crucially, so easily distractible and interruptible every second of the day. This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

The impact of interruptions on individual productivity can also be catastrophic. In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions. The average interruption takes about five minutes, so that is about five hours out of eight. And if it takes around 15 minutes to resume the interrupted activity at a good level of concentration, this means that we are never concentrating very well.

In August 2018, research from the UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, reported that people check their smartphones on average every 12 minutes during their waking hours, with 71% saying they never turn their phone off and 40% saying they check them within five minutes of waking. Both Facebook and Instagram announced they were developing new tools designed to limit usage in response to claims that excessive social media use can have a negative impact on mental health.

[03:38] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

It is difficult to imagine life before our personal and professional worlds were so dominated and “switched on” via smartphones and the other devices that make us accessible and, crucially, so easily distractible and interruptible every second of the day.

Jack says:

When you’re reading these passages, are you really turning off your phone? Are you really focused on what you’re reading? There might be other issues out of the reading time as well and that could be the problem.

[04:37] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.

Jack says:

These phones and gadgets that interrupt us are hurting our concentration.

[05:23] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration.

Jack says:

The author is saying we’ve known this for a long time.

[05:35] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect.

Jack says:

A name is given here along with some other details. It’s saying that these distractions have a profound effect.

[06:00] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana.

Jack says:

Distraction by emails and phone calls are worse than marijuana. This is insane!

[06:30] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so.

Jack says:

They’re pointing out the effect of these distractions including a meeting to respond to something immediately.

[06:55] Paragraph 2, Sentence 5

Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Jack says:

Constant interruption is an issue most students have. They can’t stay focused. Jack says that based on his experience, he sees students that are more prepared in terms of just understanding the ideas of the passages. But then they have a hard time to keep focused. This is probably due to phones and technology.

[07:44] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later.

Jack says:

An author mentions an author’s name and a book he’s written.

[08:08] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

“Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote.

Jack says:

He says he used to be able to concentrate and be able to read long articles and books.

[08:22] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

“My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose.

Jack says:

He’s giving us an example of his concentration ability.

[08:34] Paragraph 3, Sentences 4-5

That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages.

Jack says:

His concentration had gotten worse.

[08:53] Paragraph 3, Sentence 5

I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do.

Jack says:

Most students end up doing all these things when they start to lose focus on these passages. They’d probably look at the timer and think about how they’re bad at this. But you have to keep your focus. It’s tough when the passages are boring and there’s pressure.

[09:24] Paragraph 3, Sentence 6

I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text.

Jack says:

This is probably how most students feel when they’re reading CARS passages. They’re dragging their brain to read stuff.

[09:48] Paragraph 3, Sentence 7

The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

Jack says:

As to whether you should totally ditch social media or not, there has to be a bit of balance. A little of anything is okay. However, these social media companies make things habitual and addictive. You just want to keep scrolling. A good way to solve this is to just delete the app from your phone. This way, you’d have to download it again and log in. And you’d have to go through all that work if you really want to use social media. Then as you’re done using it, delete it again. The harder you make it for yourself, the less likely you’re to do it. Again, balance is key.

[11:09] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

The impact of interruptions on individual productivity can also be catastrophic.

Jack says:

Here, the author is also talking about the phone’s impact on productivity.

[11:21] Paragraph 4, Sentence2 2-3

In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions.

Jack says:

The author is quantifying the interruption.

[11:37] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

The average interruption takes about five minutes, so that is about five hours out of eight.

Jack says:

Basically, we’re really screwing ourselves with these interactions. The big picture of the paragraph is about an example of a person who agrees with the argument.

[12:15] Paragraph 4, Sentence 5

And if it takes around 15 minutes to resume the interrupted activity at a good level of concentration, this means that we are never concentrating very well.

Jack says:

There’s actually research that supports this. We’re just never really at our peak level of concentration.

[13:00] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

In August 2018, research from the UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, reported that people check their smartphones on average every 12 minutes during their waking hours, with 71% saying they never turn their phone off and 40% saying they check them within five minutes of waking.

Jack says:

The author is presenting research about phone usage.

[13:36] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

Both Facebook and Instagram announced they were developing new tools designed to limit usage in response to claims that excessive social media use can have a negative impact on mental health.

Jack says:

There’s a big backlash here where the app makers are saying they’re going to help limit usage. And it’s interesting how iPhone actually has a Screen Time feature that measures the amount of time you spend on your phone each day.

[14:46] The Big Picture

The takeaway from this passage is that distractions impact our ability to concentrate and be productive. Usually, the easier passages on the MCAT are at the end of the test because they realize how you might lose time earlier on. And when that happens, you’re going to have issues with the last passage, which is technically easier and could be solved faster if you had that extra time.

We hope students realize the importance of not using your phone every minute of the day. This is a rude awakening into how detrimental our devices can be for us. So again, try to limit your time on your phone, especially leading up to your exams.

LINKS:

Link to article:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world

Jack Westin

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