Distractions diminish ability to remember, but important facts stick, psychologists report

"In a world of computers and iPhones, it's rare that we're fully focused," said Alan Castel, a UCLA professor of psychology.

But how much do all of those distractions diminish our ability to remember? A new study led by Castel and Catherine Middlebrooks, a UCLA graduate student, found that while divided attention does impair memory, people can still selectively focus on what is most important—even while they're multitasking.

In one experiment, the researchers showed 192 students 120 words, divided into six groups of 20 words each. Each word was visible