“The people who multi-task the most seem to be the worst at it, “researcher David Strayer, PhD, professor psychology at the University of Utah says in his study published in PLOS ONE.

In terms of multitasking, like talking on your cell phone while driving, practice doesn’t get you any better at your tasks.

On the other hand, Erik Altmann, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University has studied the effects of distraction and he added that more intelligent people don’t talk and drive because they are aware of the risks.

Therefore, if you do it, you’re not that smart, and therefore aren’t good at it.

 Who’s good at multitasking?

Strayer used a test that involves two tasks to assess the multitasking ability of 277 college students. They had to remember a series of two to five letters, each separated by a simple math question, for example “Does 2+4=6?” and they had to decide whether it’s correct or incorrect.

The students also gave themselves a score, from zero to 100, with 50 termed average.

While statistically impossible, eighty percent assumed that they were at or above average at multitasking.

Additionally, Students self-reported their multitasking, including cell phone use while driving and multitasking with media such as word processing and Web surfing.

Their impulsivity and sensation-seeking behaviours were also tested in this study.

Study Results

The study showed that the students who tended to talk and drive less than others are 20% better at multitasking. Strayer says “They have the self-awareness of their own human limitations to realize it’s not safe to talk or text and drive.”

The frequent multi-taskers were also characterized as the most impulsive, sensation-seeking, and overconfident in their abilities.

However, impulsivity was related to overall multitasking, but not to talking and driving which indicates according to Strayer that cell phone use in a vehicle is a matter of personal choice.

Critique

Altmann of Michigan State criticizes the test saying: “It is purely a test of working memory capacity that happens to correlate very highly with IQ… It may or may not reflect multitasking ability…They may only show that someone who is smarter doesn’t use the cell phone as much when they drive.”