As the stereotype goes, women are better at multitasking than men. This idea has persisted despite evidence showing just how bad humans are at focusing on several undertakings at once. Could it be that even though humans are bad at it, women are slightly less worse than men? A team of German psychologists put the stereotype to the test.
As reported in Plos One, a study investigating gender differences in sequential (task switching) and concurrent (dual tasking) multitasking showed that there was no difference between the results of men and women. They did, however, once again confirm that men and women’s performances suffer when asked to do multiple things at once.
Of the 96 participants, half of them were men and the other half were women. The researchers measured five different empirical indices for both reaction time and accuracy in the tasks, resulting in 10 total measures.
“Multitasking resulted in substantial performance costs across all experimental conditions without a single significant gender difference in any of these 10 measures,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Thus, our results do not confirm the widespread stereotype that women are better at multitasking than men at least in the popular sequential and concurrent multitasking settings used in the present study.”
Men and women's cognitive abilities are much alike, and individual differences across genders are washed out once large enough numbers of people are included. A meta-analysis of 46 studies showed that gendered differences in cognition are negligible when taken into a wider context.
The idea that women are somehow better at multitasking is thought to be influenced by the fact that women do a lot more jobs than men. Women married to men are often expected to singlehandedly perform tasks at home, such as taking care of the children and doing household chores, even when they are in a similar employment situation to their husbands.
While the idea that men and women’s brains have drastic biological differences permeates society (fueled by old anecdotal research and sexists agendas), science is yet to find any concrete evidence that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Men and women, together with all the non-binary folks, are probably just from Earth.