Mums are not better at multi-tasking, a study finds – we just don't have a choice
At one point this morning I found myself cooking porridge, checking spellings and curling my hair – all pretty much at the same time as I was also negotiating with a 5-year-old over how much of his kiwi he had to eat and trying to locate a piece of paper from school telling me which days my daughter has PE and hence needs to wear runners to school.
Having been a mum now for almost a decade, I will say it sounds like mum mornings in most households I know of.
Multi-tasking is our life now.
And sure; we're just so good at it, aren't we? Women are natural multi-taskers, we tell ourselves, and throughout history women have been hailed for their great multitasking abilities.
However – it turns out it is actually just an age-old myth that we are ‘biologically’ better at juggling more things at the same time than men are.
No way? Yes way.
According to a new study, published in PLOS One, this gender-stereotypical theory is actually not true at all, and probably just a sneaky way of making sure the majority of child-rearing and household chores fall upson women's shoulders.
As part of the study, researchers compared the abilities of 48 men and 48 women in performance of letter or number identification tasks.
And guess what? The results highlighted that women’s brains are no more efficient at switching tasks or juggling multiple tasks at the same time when compared to men. And what's more – previous studies have actually found that BOTH men and women struggle to manage multiple activities at the same time.
Here is what atricia Hirsch, lead author of the study by Aachen University in Germany, had to say:
"It is a widely held belief that women outperform men in multitasking situations, possibly because of an evolutionary advantage and extensive multitasking practice resulting from managing children, household, and jobs.
“In fact, two recent studies showed that the majority of participants was convinced that gender differences in multitasking existed and at least 80 per cent of them attributed better multitasking abilities to women than to men."
“The present findings strongly suggest that there are no substantial gender differences in multitasking performance across task-switching and dual-task paradigms, which predominantly measure cognitive control mechanisms such as working memory updating, the engagement and disengagement of task sets, and inhibition.”
Maybe we believe women are better multitaskers purely because we have no choice but to be? What do YOU think, mums? Who is doing the multi-tasking in your household?