It should come as no surprise that cannabis use affects a person’s short-term memory, but so does multi-tasking. In fact, engaging in too many activities at once can actually cause you to display some of the same symptoms as marijuana intoxication without the negative connotation.
Ironically, though being high and multitasking cause similar tendencies, those who multitask typically believe they are accomplishing more by doing so.
So, which is it? Will cannabis make you more or less productive than your cell phone, tablet, laptop and television? This article compares the two so that you can decide.
How cannabis affects memory loss
Rumor has it that smoking weed can make a person lazy, stupid, and unmotivated. And, though parts of this may be true during the high, the stereotype does not necessarily apply after the high wears off. In fact, contrary to popular belief, long-term marijuana use does not have a negative impact on one’s ability to recall information from memory.
During the high, however, many users show an impaired ability to recall details or specific information — not that they’ve forgotten it — it was never stored in their memory to begin with.
This happens because THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana, binds to naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in the brain including the hippocampus which is responsible for regulating the storage of memories. In other words, the part of the brain that’s responsible for deciding what’s important enough to become a memory is hijacked by the THC which may, in turn, decide that the information being presented is unimportant and toss it to the side. Hence, if it is never a memory to begin with, it cannot be forgotten.
Cannabis and creative problem-solving
If, on the other hand, the task at hand is of great interest — a new song, a fresh theory about life or even a doodle on a napkin — then the brain’s ability to retain and build on that new information can, in fact, be heightened by a marijuana buzz thanks to its stimulation of the frontal lobe.
Though the frontal lobe is not directly tied to a “creative” section in the brain, it does seem to tame an “internal critique” that might otherwise hinder the creative process. This means that those with creative potential can harness their ideas more fully without constantly second-guessing themselves, thus letting the creative juices flow.
While smoking weed may not help anyone bone-up for a physics final, it certainly can help foster creativity and the ability to solve problems — a feature that nine out of ten employers seek when recruiting new talent.
So, to answer the question “will marijuana make you dumb?” Probably not as long as it’s not part of a constant high. But will it get you hired? It just might.
How multitasking affects memory loss
Next, let’s talk about cellular devices, specifically their role in helping us multitask with the best of them.
With cell phones, tablets and laptops equipped with multi-tab features, instant messaging and, of course, adorable cat pictures galore, it can be easy to get sucked into a multitasking cycle that makes us believe that we are being productive than we are.
Contrary to popular belief, the ability to multitask does not improve productivity. According to Realization, those who notoriously multitask are a whopping 40 percent less productive than those who can focus on a single task at once.
Multitasking requires that our brains switch between subjects quickly, which consumes a few seconds of the day each time the switch occurs. Because it takes our brains time to switch gears, each time someone clicks on a new tab, opens a new email or sends a text to a friend, they are losing valuable time (and brain power), and thus diminishing productivity.
Studies also show that those who spend a lot of time multitasking have lower cognitive ability than those who can focus on a single task until complete. This is because their brains have essentially been programmed to pick up stimulus from their surroundings, resulting in an inability to filter out unimportant information and difficulty prioritizing tasks. In other words, even when you have the attention of a multitasker, you will never have their full attention.
Multitasking and over-all productivity
When it comes to productivity, those who multitask have been fooling themselves into thinking they are accomplishing more than they are. Perhaps this contributes to the feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, and yet students and employees continue to tout their ability to multitask was though it was something to be proud of.
So, when it comes to comparing pot to cell phones, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve been led astray. Though smoking marijuana can (and does) impair one’s ability to retain new information, so, too does one’s insistent multitasking.
The difference between the two, however, is that, once cannabis users come down from their high, they do not have reduced cognitive ability, contrary to their multitasking counterpart. Couple that with the fact that cannabis users tend to tackle problems more creatively and you’ve got a recipe for a solid employee who is bound for greatness — if he can put down the bong for a bit. The same cannot necessarily be said for multitaskers and their many cellular devices.
It’s easy to get sucked into a massive to-do list and to try to take everything on at once. The days are just too short and your list of obligations just too long, but attempting to multitask until your work is complete will leave you burnt out and unproductive.
In fact, multitasking can cause similar degrees of forgetfulness that cannabis does, but without the happy, euphoric feeling. While marijuana may not be conducive to an effective study session or thought-provoking speech, it does not seem to have a lasting impact on long-term cognitive functions that compulsive multitasking might. So, to answer the question of whether or not pot will make you dumber than the cellular phone glued to your fingers, I think it’s safe to say that either one could do the damage if you let it.
What do you think? Does weed make you smarter than your phone?