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Women Less Likely To Multitask Than Men

Over the years we have been hearing the myth than women are supposedly better at multitasking than men.

The source of this myth has sometimes been explained on the simple basis that women acquire better multitasking abilities through doing more housework.

A new study from the Tinbergen Institute of The Netherlands has come up with some interesting findings.

In its Discussion Paper, the Tinbergen Institute states:

…our results do not support the stereotype that women are better at multitasking. Women suffer as much as men when forced to multitask and are actually less inclined to multitask when being free to choose.

As mentioned in a previous article on the multitasking myth I could not find any conclusive research to support that one gender is better at multitasking than the other. This new study reflects this view:

The media regularly mentions research which supposedly shows that women are better at multitasking but to the best of our knowledge, none of this has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

The Discussion Paper concludes with:

We do not find any evidence for gender differences in the ability to multitask. Besides, the share of switchers is exactly the same for men and women and the average number of switches is higher for men. Thus, the results contradict the claims of Fisher (1999): if men think so much more linearly than women, why don’t they insist more on a sequential schedule? Moreover, why is it that women do not adapt better to multitasking than men when forced to alternate? In sum, the view that women are better at multitasking is not supported by our findings.

You can read the complete Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper here.

{ 3 comments }

ActaNonVerba July 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Women do three things at once half ass and leave two of them incomplete and call themselves multi-taskers.

Gordius August 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Generally, I’ve observed that the women who pride themselves in multi-tasking are really multi-task starting, but not multi-task finishing. If they do finish one or two of the “multi-tasks” they start, these tasks won’t be done as well nor as timely as the man who starts just one task and carries it through to on-time completion. It was a woman who coined the phrase, “with a lick and a promise” when faced with a project involving multi-tasks..
I will admit though, the women who adopt the man’s way of accomplishing a task, (i.e. start it and bring a single purpose concentration to bear on getting it done correctly and on time) will do just as well.
For those women who are unfamiliar with this method, it is called FOCUS.
We men excel in this trait naturally.

amfortas May 10, 2011 at 12:31 am

I tell women who make the claim that they should be worried whenever they get on a plane as it is 99% certain that a man is flying it.

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