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article imageWomen are better at multi-tasking and finding lost keys

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 19, 2010 in Science
Hatfield - In an informal study that delves into the old 'who is better at what' argument that pits men against women, it was found that women are definitely better.
Better than men at multi-tasking, that is. And at finding lost items, like your missing keys. It's been said so often that men can't do more than one thing at a time, at least one book has been written on the topic.
Discussions about men's theorized capabilities have usually gone along the lines of "It has puzzled me that men "rule" the world yet they can't even carry on a conversation with you and eat at the same time." But strangely enough, while the sentiment has been bantered about socially for years, there has been no research conducted to test the hypothesis said Dr. Keith Laws. Dr. Laws, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at the University of Hertfordshire, put the theory to the test. And he found that most of the women tested were far more capable than men at doing more than one task at a time.
The differences between men and women, beyond the obvious physical ones, have been the source of debate for years. Some, like Dr. John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women from Venus) uphold, and even celebrate the differences between men and women; while others argue there are no real differences. Thanks to Dr. Laws, some women will feel completely validated. However, because the research appears to be informal, Dr. Laws has ensured the old argument will only be prolonged. But also thanks to Laws, there will likely be more in-depth research conducted on the subject.
Laws tested 50 female and 50 male subjects, who all received the same test that lasted for 8 minutes. Subjects had the same three tasks to complete, and during the testing, subjects would receive a telephone call, which they could choose to accept or not. The three tasks were to solve some simple math problems, find restaurants on a map and draw out a strategy for finding misplaced keys, all at the same time. Laws described the study results to the Telegraph, saying because men are supposed to be more spatially adept than women, Laws said men "... should have outperformed the women on the map task and the key task. But of all the tasks we gave, the key searching task also requires planning and some kind of strategy.
Men tended to start their search in a less logical place such as the centre of the field and they would not cover the whole area when they were outlining their search. women tended to enter in one corner and search in concentric circles or lines."
Laws concluded "It shows that women are better at being able to stand back and reflect for a moment while they are juggling other things."
100 undergraduate students participated in the research.
The press release did not state if Laws would write up the research for future publication.
There are some, such as business coach Dave Crenshaw, who claim multi-tasking is just a myth. However, the Scientific American ran an article earlier this year saying the human brain is quite capable of "keeping tabs on two tasks at once."
One small research project carried out at the Missouri Western State University in 2009 (which Dr. Laws apparently missed in his survey of research) concluded there were no appreciable differences between men and women when it came to multi-tasking.
More about Multi-tasking, Spatial skills, Women versus men, Keith laws, John gray
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