Multitasking is a broad area in psychology, one that has been explored over several decades of research. And there seems to be a prevailing belief that women are better in multitasking than men. However, there is a dearth of study that investigated this.
In 2013, one research has revealed that women are more organised and better than men at multitasking. This research is important in helping us understand the risk of multitasking in real-life situations, such as driving while using a mobile phone.
In that particular research, a group of women and men were given eight minutes to complete a series of tasks such as locating restaurants on a map, doing simple maths problems, answering a phone call, and deciding how they would search for a lost key in a field.
Completing all these assignments in eight minutes was impossible. Hence, it forced men and women to prioritise, organise their time, and keep calm under pressure.
In the key search task, in particular, women displayed a clear performance advantage over men, says co-author Professor Keith Laws of the University of Hertfordshire.
The study investigated the neural wiring of the male and female brain has concluded that there is a greater degree of neural connectivity from front to back within one hemisphere in males, suggesting brains were wired to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action.
In contrast, women’s brain is wired between left and right hemispheres, suggesting that they facilitated communication between the analytical and intuition and are better at multitasking.
This result invokes a rather traditional image of women at home, cooking and looking after the children, with men out doing so-called ‘linear’ tasks such as chasing and killing prey.
On the other hand, other research claims that it has not been proven yet that women are always better at multitasking than men. This is because ‘successfully multitasking’ is heavily influenced by other factors.
Also, in several laboratory tests, both genders seem to perform equally well. In a more realistic study, men and women under time pressure had to juggle simple maths problems, answer the phone and decide how to find something lost in a field.
According to popular beliefs and anecdotes, females fare well than males when handling multiple tasks at the same time. Also, a number of studies reveal that women were found to be calmer, better organised and planned more carefully than men. The sexes have very different attitudes to planning and preparing, with women devoting extra time to everyday tasks than their male counterparts.
But even if this difference is real, we still don’t know whether it is biological or culturally imposed.