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Myth Or Fact: Women Better At Multitasking Than Men

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Generally, there is a belief that women are better at multitasking than men. Possibly because of the extensive multitasking practices of juggling between home and work activities, and taking care of the children.


However, new research says otherwise. Read on to find out.


80% of participants of previous studies, were convinced that women outperformed men in multitasking. Researchers ‘put the myth to test’ and the result shows that women are no better at multitasking than men.


So there you have it.


New research revealed that gender makes no difference in a person’s ability to multitask.


A team of researchers – Patricia Hirsch, from the Institute of Psychology at Aachen University in Germany, and her colleagues carried out a research to ‘put this stereotype to the test’.


A total of 96 participants (48 women and 48 men) participated in the experiment. The experiment was of two types: sequential/ task-switching test and concurrent/ dual-tasking test.


Their findings were published in the journal PLOS One.




Gender Differences in Sequential and Concurrent Multitasking

Multitasking refers to the performance of a set of different tasks within a limited period, ’leading to a temporal overlap of the cognitive processes in performing these tasks.’


That is, performing several tasks at the same time requires more cognitive energy than doing them one at a time. Particularly since the human brain switches rapidly between tasks during multitasking, putting a strain on attention and cognitive processes.


In the first set of experiments, called “concurrent/ dual tasking,” the researchers asked the participants to pay attention to two tasks at the same time.


In the second set of experiments, called “sequential/ task-switching multitasking,” the participants had to switch attention between tasks.


The two tasks included in both paradigms were to categorise letters as consonant or vowel and digits as odd or even using the index and middle fingers of the hand spatially corresponding to the stimulus presentation location.


In the concurrent multitasking setup, the researchers presented the stimuli at the same time. While in the sequential multitasking setup, they presented them alternately.


The researchers measured the participants’ reaction time and task accuracy during the experiments.


Conclusion: The Results

The results of the experiments revealed that multitasking took its toll on reaction time and accuracy in men and women equally. The multitasking cost on these two measures was significant and comparable between men and women.


Although the present study does not give any conclusions on gender differences in other multitasking situations such as for more planned and future-oriented strategies or involve offloading of spatial abilities.


However, the present findings strongly suggest that there are no substantial gender differences in multitasking performance across task switching and dual-task paradigms, which mainly measure cognitive control mechanisms — working memory updating, the engagement and disengagement of task sets, and inhibition.


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