Women win multitasking match

In any “battle of the sexes” type argument it is inevitably asserted that women are better multitaskers than men. I need to declare my bias here and indicate that I am a man (who is also managing to drink coffee as I write!). The evidence for this assertion of the superior quality of women’s capacity to deal with multiple things at once is largely empirical and observational. Is there solid research to back it up?

This is the question that exercised the minds of researchers from Hertfordshire University. Their review of the scientific literature provided no acceptable scientific evidence to support the claim that women do multiple things at once better than their male counterparts. “Hurrah”, shout beleaguered males as one plank of potential criticism is removed. Yet alas, the moment of glory is short-lived.

I feel a traitor to my sex to report it, but the researchers went on to do their own study. They recruited male and female subjects and found that the two sexes performed equally well on simple maths and map reading tasks. The next step in the study was to have the two sexes attempt multitasking.

The subjects had eight minutes to do some maths problems, some map reading, and answer the phone answering general knowledge questions all at the same time as they had to devise a strategy to find an imaginary key that had been lost in a field. The key search involved the subjects being given a blank sheet of paper representing the field and asking them to draw how they would search for the key.

On average the women performed 70 per cent better in planning how to search for the lost key than did the men. So women planned their key search better than men at the same time as phone answering, doing maths and map reading. This is despite the reputation that men have for having better spatial skills than women.

I’d enter into a spirited defense of male multitasking capacities here, but I have something else demanding my attention and I can’t do two things at once, can I!

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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