It's time for a little truth about multitasking. In an age that's full of demands and distractions to a disturbing degree, it would seem to be the most important of all life skills. But by now you've probably heard that you're no good at it or that it might even be making you dumber.
Multitasking is all but dead, crushed under the mountain of evidence against it.
Now the popular stereotype that women are better than men at multitasking is increasingly succumbing to the same fate.
A new study by a team of German researchers set out to test the notion that gender may play a role in our ability to switch attention between two tasks or do two things at once.
The researchers measured how 48 men and 48 women performed alphanumeric identification tasks while doing two tasks at once, or switching between two tasks. Both types of multitasking led to the participants performing more slowly and less accurately. Most important, the compromised performance was seen across both groups.
In other words: women and men performed equally well (or not).
"The present findings strongly suggest that there are no substantial gender differences in multitasking performance across task-switching and dual-task paradigms, which predominantly measure cognitive control mechanisms such as working memory updating, the engagement and disengagement of task sets, and inhibition," explained Patricia Hirsch of Aachen University.
The evidence against the image of the mother who has mastered multitasking has been mounting for a while. In fact, it was just under a year ago that my colleague Jessica Stillman wrote about a similar study that reached similar conclusions.
It's becoming increasingly clear that we need to do away with a couple of very different concepts: stereotypes and multitasking. But we should probably focus on eradicating them one at a time.