Another stereotype bites the dust!

Checking your e-mails while driving your car and taking a quick bite from your sandwich … Women think that they can do everything – and do it all at the same time! But that’s not exactly true …

… at least it’s not true that women are better at multitasking than men. Researchers led by Dr. Patricia Hirsch of the RWTH Aachen’s Institute of Psychology have been investigating this popular stereotype. 48 men and 48 women submitted themselves to a range of different number and letter tests to help the scientists find out which gender actually does better. The result? As soon as the test subjects were required to do two tasks simultaneously, both genders started working more slowly and less accurately. So – scientifically speaking – no difference in multitasking talent between men and women could be identified.

New information for the working memory

To test the cognitive skills of the participants, they were also subjected to dual-tasking in the number and letter tests, e.g. to simultaneously categorise the letters as vowels or consonants or, in the case of numbers, as odd or even. Basically, this testing addresses the ongoing updating and overwriting of information in our working memory. And sometimes a bit of information here or there may well get lost.

Previous studies often yielded many different results: sometimes the women were better at multitasking; sometimes the men – and sometimes there was no detectable difference whatsoever.

Findings of researchers in Zurich verified

Like Hirsch and her team, the neuropsychologist Prof. Dr. Lutz Jäncke at the University of Zurich came to the conclusion that there is as good as no gender difference when it comes to human multitasking. A difference would also not make any sense from the perspective of evolutionary logic. “Ultimately, there is no genetic reason to assume that the homo sapiens female 150,000 years ago was fundamentally better pre-programmed for multitasking than a male. That’s complete nonsense,” says Jäncke.
So, ladies and gentlemen, Jänke’s findings have now been verified. Sadly, none of us – whatever our gender – are particularly good at multitasking. So perhaps it’s wiser if we tackle our daily tasks nice and easy – one after the other…