Multitaskers Are Impulsive Risk-Takers… Who Are Also Bad At Multitasking

That’s the conclusion of a study at the University of Utah, that measured four of their subjects’ traits: how good at multitasking they thought they were, how good they actually were, how impulsive they were and how much they liked seeking thrills. First finding: the ones that thought they were good at multitasking were actually worse at it. (Scientists tested multitasking ability by asking their guinea pigs to do math while remembering words.) In other words, if you’re proud to be a multitasker, you probably fall in this group.

Scott May daredevil stunt show. Photo by John Wright.

Scott May daredevil stunt show. Photo by John Wright.


Secondly, the people who thought they were good at multitasking were impulsive and sought out risks just for the thrills. Why? Because they can’t help “multitasking”: impulsivity and risk-taking also indicate lower self-control, which means that this group is not as much made up of multitaskers as A.D.D-ers. Not the real disorder, but the 21st century word for being scatterbrained: when they see a shiny new toy, they can’t help but play with the new toy too — due to the lack of self control. After that happens a few times, they find themselves spinning seven plates at once and call it multitasking — even though they suck at it.

Now, the study was done on college kids, and since everyone can get better at anything with enough practice, maybe by the time they’re middle-aged, the impulsive people are actually great at multitasking, and probably even less impulsive simply because they’re older. This logic is supported by a previous study that showed bilingual people are a lot better at multitasking while driving, because they have more experience jugging multiple pieces of information, via thinking in two languages.

Speaking of multitasking while driving, it’s worth mentioning that the study had a no-texting-while-driving slant to it. The NPR article covering the matter repeated the fact that texting while driving is more distracting than being drunk while driving. They also mentioned how everyone is texting and driving now, which would make you think there are all kinds of texting-related accidents, since half of us are basically driving around drunk. Unfortunately for the fear-based media, the insurance industry’s own data shows that accident rates have actually dropped since everyone started texting. Which really makes you think about the worth of these studies.

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From Plos One, via NPR

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