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25 Jan, 2017 19:21

Men can’t multitask, study finds

Men can’t multitask, study finds

In what may be no surprise to women the world over, a recent study seems to confirm that men, and indeed women over the age of 60, are rubbish at multi-tasking.

The study, published Wednesday by The Royal Society, found that men are knocked off their stride, literally, by a tricky brain teaser. Women, however, generally remain unfazed.

Researchers from the University Hospital in Balgrist, Switzerland asked 83 participants, aged 18 to 80, to walk on a treadmill, first normally and then while attempting to perform a complicated language test.

The Stroop test, which was developed in the 1930s, involves printing the name of a color onto non-matching color and then asking the person to say the color of the ink, instead of the word.


The team used infrared cameras to gauge the walking patterns and found that while striding normally both arms swung pretty much equally but when this verbal task was added, a difference between the sexes emerged.

“When we added the verbal task, we observed that in men of all ages and women over 60, this symmetry broke down, with a reduction in right arm swing while the left arm carried on swinging normally," said neuroscientist and study co-author, Tim Killeen.

Language function and right arm swing are both thought to be generally controlled by the brain's left hemisphere.

When the results were tallied, it showed that for men and older women, the verbal task “appears to overwhelm the left brain to the extent that the movement of the arm on the right is reduced."

"We were surprised to find such a consistent gender difference in how two relatively simple behaviours - cognitive control and arm swing - interact with one another," Killeen said. “Whether this finding is generalisable to other examples of multitasking, such as driving and talking, walking and texting is speculative.”