Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Multitasking in the military: Cognitive consequences and potential solutions

Summary

Multitasking—the performance of several tasks at the same time—is becoming increasingly prevalent in workplaces. Multitasking is known to disrupt performance, particularly in complex and dynamic situations, which is exactly what most military occupations entail. Because military errors can be consequential, the detrimental impact of multitasking on cognitive functioning in such contexts should be taken seriously. This review pertains to high‐consequence military occupations that require strong multitasking skills. More specifically, it highlights cognitive challenges arising from different forms of multitasking and discusses their underlying cognitive processes. Because such challenges are not expected to diminish, this review proposes context‐relevant solutions to decrease occupational workload, either by reducing the cognitive load ensuing from the to‐be‐performed tasks or by improving soldiers' multitasking abilities. To ensure effective implementation of these solutions, we stress the need to design context‐adapted tools and procedures, and to guide human resource managers in developing particular strategies.

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