No sex difference in an everyday multitasking paradigm
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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According to popular beliefs and anecdotes, females best males when handling multiple tasks at the same time. However, there is relatively little empirical evidence as to whether there truly is a sex difference in multitasking and the few available studies yield inconsistent findings. We present data from a paradigm that was specifically designed to test multitasking abilities in an everyday scenario, the computerized meeting preparation task (CMPT), which requires participants to prepare a room for a meeting and handling various tasks and distractors in the process. Eighty-two males and 66 females with a wide age range (18–60 years) and a wide educational background completed the CMPT. Results revealed that none of the multitasking measures (accuracy, total time, total distance covered by the avatar, a prospective memory score, and a distractor management score) showed any sex differences. All effect sizes were d ≤ 0.18 and thus not even considered “small” by conventional standards. The findings are in line with other studies that found no or only small gender differences in everyday multitasking abilities. However, there is still too little data available to conclude if, and in which multitasking paradigms, gender differences arise.