Life

Science says women aren’t any better at multitasking than men – we just work harder

Posted by
Lauren Geall
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Women vs Men

The idea that your ability to multitask is dependent on your gender is a tired myth – and now science has officially disproved it. 

Gender stereotypes are like that itch you just can’t scratch, no matter how hard you try.

For a long time, the idea that women are significantly better at multitasking has pervaded, despite the fact that previous studies have shown how multitasking is not an inherently gendered skill. A recent survey of public beliefs even revealed that 50% of the participants believed in gender differences in multitasking abilities.

And it’s not a harmless stereotype – in fact, the myth of the modern superwoman (aka the woman who can juggle every aspect of their high-flying professional and personal life with ease) is setting unrealistic standards for all of us, and could be one of the reasons why so many of us are experiencing burnout. 

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But now science has come to the rescue to disprove that fact once and for all. A new study published today in PLOS One, has shown there are no biological differences between how men and women handle tasks, meaning all that extra work women do is exactly how it sounds – extra work. 

The new study compared the abilities of 48 men and 48 women in how well completed tasks, with some of the experiments asking participants to pay attention to two tasks at once and others asking them to switch their attention between two tasks. The researchers then compared the reaction time and accuracy of the participants compared to their performance when focusing on one task at a time.

Woman multitasking
Multitasking: women are no better at it than men - but we're still expected to do twice as much work.

The result? The performance of both the men and women was equally affected. So, men can multitask as well as women.

Besides the fact that true multitasking doesn’t actually exist – human brains are actually just good at switching between activities quickly, making people feel like they’re multitasking – it seems that we’re all just as distracted by working on two things at once. Why might it appear that women are better at juggling multiple tasks at once? Probably because they’ve got more practice from being expected to do it.

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It’s about time we stop expecting women to be superhuman productive goddesses who are able to work their way through an extensive to-do list without even breaking a sweat. 

Recent research suggested that less than 7% of couples share their housework equally – and it’s about time that changed, don’t you think?

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