15 August 2019

Who multitasks better: men or women? The answer may surprise you

The findings of a new study support growing evidence contradicting the common belief that women are better at multitasking than men.

Multitasking is equally taxing for women and men, according to a study that challenges the popular notion that women are better at it.

For the study, 48 women and 48 men were asked to do letter or number identification tasks. In some tests, they had to pay attention to two tasks at once (concurrent multitasking). In others, they had to switch attention from one task to another (sequential multitasking).

Contradicting evidence

Researchers measured participants' reaction times and accuracy on both types of multitasking and while doing single tasks.

The results showed that compared with their performance on single tasks, women and men had similar, significant declines in speed and accuracy when multitasking.

The study was published in the journal PLoS One.

The findings support growing evidence contradicting the common belief that women are better at multitasking than men, according to the authors.

Similar results

"The present findings strongly suggest that there are no substantial gender differences in multitasking performance," study author Patricia Hirsch said in a journal news release. Hirsch is a scientist at RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany.

She and her team noted that different findings on gender and multitasking may owe to the specific tasks assessed. They said no single study can assess all the mental demands of multitasking.

However, at least for the mental demands of multitasking assessed in this study – working memory updating, engagement and disengagement of task sets, and inhibition – men and women have similar results, researchers said.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules