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Nan
04-16-2010, 05:00 PM
And it's a well known fact that men can't multi-task :saint:

They do have to put down their beer can to use the TV remote, don't they? ;)

j/k

mpal2
04-16-2010, 05:21 PM
I think a better example of multitasking three things at once would be something like--can you balance your checkbook, watch TV and talk on the phone at the same time?

Yes. You balance the check book during commercials. :D

Seriously though, I could talk to the friend and balance the checkbook but would only be able to give you a high level summary of the tv show. If I was watching the show at a detailed level and balancing the check book it would impact the conversation with the friend (unless we were watching the show and talking about it).

I don't know that I would put the limit at 2 activities or 3. I would say the number of things we multi-task would be limited by how much detail we need to have included in the task. The more complex it becomes the less likely we are to multi-task. If some activities become an auto-pilot function over time, something that used to be harder to multi-task would get easier.

Simple autopilot example:

When I first moved into my house I had to concentrate on vacuuming around the furniture. Now I know the reach and the angles and do a million other things as I'm zooming through the house.

Japanfan
04-17-2010, 08:39 AM
Yes. You balance the check book during commercials. :D


In which case you would be looking at the checkbook and doing the numbers - you could hear what was being said on the commercial at the same time, but if you got on the phone with someone you would probably have to tune out the commercial to listen and talk to them.

It's possible to listen to multiple sounds at one time but the more complex the sounds, the harder it becomes. I doubt you could hear and process every word said on a TV while simultaneously hearing and process what someone was saying to you on person or in the phone. You have to tune out the one to pay attention to the other.

I think what the article says about two things at a time is probably true. Very often what is considered multi-tasking is actually moving between a number of separate tasks done serially.

I can talk on the phone, do something on the computer, and give my dog the hand signal for sit or chuck a ball in the air. But I have to stop typing if I am going to give a signal or chuck a ball, so at that moment, I'm only really doing two things, not three.

But I do think people can choose between more than two things and do so on a regular basis. If anything two is often harder, because you may have narrowed down two things that you want/like the most.

JJH
04-17-2010, 08:55 AM
I'm just trying to master doing one thing at once.

AYS
04-17-2010, 12:46 PM
I definitely multitask on >2 things frequently (particularly during the GP season :shuffle: )

That being said, I'm a nervous frakkin wreck, so uh, there's that side of things to take into account. :fragile:

annie_mg
04-17-2010, 05:59 PM
I'm training to become a conference interpreter. Believe me, we multitask(listening in one language, understanding, sometimes writing something down, and at the same time speaking, IN A DIFFERENT language).

DAngel
04-17-2010, 06:08 PM
I used to write essays while listening to music and eating dinner... Does that count as 3 activites? :lol:

Japanfan
04-17-2010, 06:37 PM
I used to write essays while listening to music and eating dinner... Does that count as 3 activites? :lol:

You can chew while you type and listen to music, but in the moments when you are using your utensils or picking up you sandwich, you are really doing only two things. It's like the example I gave above - you can do three things at one time, especially if one gets involves only one skill (i.e. chewing, looking). Chewing gum can be done with two other activities.

But if the three are more complex, you're probably doing two of them sequentially.

myhoneyhoney
04-17-2010, 09:24 PM
Let's see... if you watch me on a typical 5-6pm weekday you will see me: doing laundry/ helping 3 kids with their homework (my ADHD son is particularly difficult)/ cooking dinner/ and tending to my now 5 year old daughter. Hubby's at work at this hour so I have no help at all. I may move from one activity after another every 2 minutes or so but I know I can stir the pot/ add in ingredients, help my 2nd son with his fractions, ensure my 1st son is on task with his work, listen to my 6 year old read for her reading log, and keep a close eye on my pre-schooler (even holler at her if need be) all at the same time... maybe sequentially done but extremely quick...we're talking boom, boom, boom.

I'm inclined to be skeptical because Koechlin is male and males are notorious for not being able to multi-task:rolleyes:. I wonder if any of his colleagues were females?

KatieC
04-17-2010, 10:40 PM
I'm reading this thread, eating and listening for the dishwasher to stop all at the same time. (That's using three different senses, but I also count that those dishes are being washed too - efffective multi-tasking :) )

Japanfan
04-18-2010, 02:06 AM
I'm inclined to be skeptical because Koechlin is male and males are notorious for not being able to multi-task:rolleyes:. I wonder if any of his colleagues were females?

Males can multi-task but it's a learned skill and traditionally, women have learned because child-minding and house-tending involves a lot of multi-tasking - in contrast to more traditional male functions (i.e. hunting, farming,f fighting).

I've no doubt that single dads or men more involved in parenting are better at multi-tasking. And that male chefs would be excellent multi-taskers.

AYS
04-18-2010, 02:16 AM
Males can multi-task but it's a learned skill and traditionally, women have learned because child-minding and house-tending involves a lot of multi-tasking - in contrast to more traditional male functions (i.e. hunting, farming,f fighting).

I've no doubt that single dads or men more involved in parenting are better at multi-tasking. And that male chefs would be excellent multi-taskers.
I came across a study a few months ago that actually did an experiment that looked at brain activity in males and females while faced with more than one task, and there were definite differences....I'll have to go find it...

But with many human traits, there are usually exceptions to the general tendency, and many genetic predispositions are subject to modification by learning or being overridden, at least to an extent, in various ways.

Japanfan
04-18-2010, 02:36 AM
I came across a study a few months ago that actually did an experiment that looked at brain activity in males and females while faced with more than one task, and there were definite differences....I'll have to go find it...


Was it it about the corpus callosum? Research about that is often raised in support of arguments that women are more scattered/better at multi-tasking and men more focused and directive.

I tend to question all gender research because it is so deeply influenced by gender norms and biases. And studies have been done which raise doubts about claims of biologically-based gender differences, including the corpus callosum. And it's been pointed out that children's brains actually continual developing after birth for a number of years and research shows that brain development is affected by culture and environment as well as biology. Cross-cultural studies are therefore really important in the investigation of biologically-based claims.

One example is visual-spatial skills, which men are commonly seen to be stronger in than women. A study done by anthropologist J. W. Berry compared Eskimo children to the Temne children of Sierra Leone. Both live in very different physical environments (Eskimos living in largely featureless vast landscapes, the Temne living in lands with many more colors and more vegetation.). Also, Temne girls are much more restricted and granted far less autonomy than Eskimo girls . The study found no difference in visual-spatial skills of Eskimo boys and girls, while there was a marked difference in Temne boys and girls.

A lot of different factors influence the development of visual-spatial skills - dads playing balls with boys, being one example. And so on and so forth. . .

And I believe the same to be true of multi-tasking.

Prancer
04-18-2010, 02:46 AM
I was talking to my husband about this over dinner and he said that he had just read about it in Marilyn vos Savant's column last week.

http://www.parade.com/askmarilyn/2010/04/Sundays-Column-04-11-10.html

What many people call ď multitaskingĒ is a myth. Studies show that if a task requires concentration, you canít actually do more than one at a time. You can think, listen to music, and run all at once because listening to music and running donít require you to focus. But you canít write a paragraph and read one at the same time.

I think that's true; I also think that what most people think of as multitasking is really fast sequencing, which is not the same thing. But while I can talk on the phone and watch TV at the same time as long as the friend isn't telling me something I need to pay attention to and the show doesn't require my full attention, I can't talk to my friend and grade papers at the same time because grading papers requires a lot of concentration, and I sure couldn't balance the checkbook while doing anything else. I can make dinner and help the kids with their homework--but only as long as the homework is something I know very well and don't have to think about, which hasn't been the case for quite a while :shuffle:.

I'm not sure that I buy that men can't multitask, either. A lot of men can't juggle household issues as well as women can, but a lot of them don't have as much practice, either. My husband can handle multiple complex jobs at work and does all the time; he regularly juggles multiple longterm projects and always has a good grasp on what is due when and when he needs to focus on one instead of another. He doesn't juggle, say, the kids' activities as well as I do, but he doesn't do it nearly as often, either. With a little practice, I think he would manage perfectly well, probably better than I do.

BlueRidge
04-18-2010, 11:52 PM
The study that I posted about doesn't give a breakdown of the sex of the research participants, so maybe it was skewed in some way we don't know about, but I'm kind of doubting its simply biased because a lead author is male.

Its an interesting study that looked at people doing two tasks at once and used brain imaging to see which parts of the brain were active. They concluded that a particular portion of the brain easily divides to keep track of two tasks at once. When they gave the subjects three tasks the error rate and response time on the third task deteriorated significantly from that for the first two tasks when they were just given two.

Or more or less something like that is what I got from reading the original peer-reviewed paper.