According to a study that is soon to be published in the "Psychonomic Bulletin and Review," real multi-taskers, of the superhuman variety, comprise only a little over two percent of the population. The study was conducted by Dr. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, and his colleague, Dr. Jason Watson of the university's Brain Institute. The scientists determined that only one out of forty of their initial test group was able to drive a car sufficiently well and manage using a cell phone at the same time.
Strayer and Watson used driving simulators—akin to racing games usually seen at video game arcades—in order to determine who of their group could maintain a fully-developed cell phone conversation while successfully operating a motor vehicle. The vast majority was unable to do so, and those who had become deeply involved in their conversations drove as if they were driving under the influence of alcohol with a BAC of about the legal limit.
Strayer and Watson gathered a small group of the remarkably well-performing multitaskers—what they refer to as "supertaskers"-- and studied them further. They made these supertaskers undergo a wide variety of tests in which their multitasking abilities were further measured. In one experiment, the supertasking participants were asked to listen and watch several audio and visual signals at the same, and then were charged with the tasks of memorizing the two competing streams of information. Several of the participants performed exceedingly well
While further study of these rare individuals who can accomplish several tasks at once is intriguing, what is most exciting about this new study is that it flies in the face of previous notions that the human mind can only truly focus and perform well one task at a time. Dr. Watson is quoted as saying, "Current theory says dual tasking creates bottleneck on your attention ability." But this new study suggests otherwise, the scientist goes on to indicate, meaning that those who truly can multitask will be extremely important in the understanding of dual-task cognitive processes in the future, and how and why they may break down, or not.
To read the full article in which the information about Watson and Strayer's study is explained, click here.
For further information about the "Psychonomic Bulletin and Review," visit the journal's website.
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