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).
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.
"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.
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