Stand, Sit or Lean – Multitasking Improv Activity

How much thought process is required for you to talk on a cell phone and do another activity at the same time? Let’s find out!

  1. In your group, assign three volunteers to do a fairly physical yet fun activity.
  2. Have the rest of the group choose a topic for the volunteers to discuss (perhaps make a topic like “cell phone use while driving”).
  3. Volunteers are to carry on a discussion about the chosen topic, BUT each volunteer has to pick a position (standing, sitting or leaning*) during the conversation.
  4. The volunteers should change positions randomly and frequently while they are talking. If one person changes from standing to sitting, then the person who is sitting must quickly pick a different position, and so on.
  5. Encourage the observers to yell out to the volunteers if they see more than one person in the same position at the same time.
  6. Continue play for a few minutes before stopping to discuss.

*NOTE: If the teaching environment does not have a chair to sit or lean on, you may alternate with kneeling or bending instead.

  • Volunteers, how did you feel when doing the activity?
  • Was it stressful?
  • Did you make mistakes? Did it get confusing?

Doing another task that requires focus impacts your ability to carry on a conversation at the same time. 

You can’t do two thinking activities at once and do them well. Please remember this and avoid your phones while driving!


The Myth of Multitasking Test

Watch this video, and then try the exercise yourself or with a group. (You will need paper and pencil for this one, plus a stopwatch or watch with a second hand.)

Time the following with your stopwatch:

  1. Write out the following sentence, “Switchtasking is a thief”. Then write the numbers 1 through 21 on the line beneath.

Next, time the following with your stopwatch:

  1. Now write the same sentence and numbers on two new separate lines of the paper, but this time alternating writing one letter and one number at a time (ex: “S” with a “1” on line below, “W” with a “2” below, etc.

When you’re finished, discuss:

  • Did it take almost twice as much time to complete this task when you were “switchtasking”?
  • Did the quality decrease (sloppier handwriting, mistakes)?
  • Did you feel more stressed in doing the task the second time around?

How does this correspond to driving? Any activity that takes your mind off of the task of driving is a form of multitasking or switchtasking. You will be more apt to make slower choices, mistakes and have increased stress.

Stay focused on the ONE task – driving safely.


Hands-Free Safety

What is “hands-free” technology?

  • Earpiece, dashboard system, voice-to-text, or speaker phone.

Hands-free technology and driving: The brain quickly toggles between tasks – but can’t do two things at the same time. According to the National Safety Council, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by up to 1/3 when listening to talking on a phone. Drivers looking out the windshield can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on ANY kind of a cell phone.

Watch this quick video on hands-free technologies:

How is hands-free device operation more dangerous than just talking to a passenger? During a face-to-face conversation, you rely on many non-verbal cues to understand the other person. While talking on a cell phone, you cannot read these cues so you focus more attention on the conversation than usual. This distracts your mind from focusing on driving. Also, passengers can see your driving environment. They are aware of the situation around you and will tend to adjust the conversation to fit the risk level of driving. A passenger can even serve as an additional lookout for hazards, like a co-pilot. As a result, passengers could possibly reduce crash risk for adult drivers.


The Hands-Free Debate

Is it safe to use a hands-free device to talk on a cell phone while driving?

  • Debate this question for three minutes with a partner or with teams taking each position: Yes, it’s safe or No, it’s deadly.

CONCLUSION: Portable and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use still involves visual-manual subtasks, which are associated with a greater crash risk, and can cause drivers to miss the important visual and audio cues that would ordinarily help avoid a crash.

Think using a hands-free device while driving makes you safer? Think again.

  • In order to stay safe, you need your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on driving.

The facts:

  • An estimated 8% of drivers are using some type of phone (either hand-held or hands-free) at any typical daylight moment.
  • In a recent year, police reports indicate 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
  • Even portable hands-free and vehicle-integrated hands-free cell phone use involved visual-manual tasks at least half of the time, which is associated with a greater crash risk.