London - If a man needs help finding his keys he would do well to ask his wife – especially if she’s busy.
For women, it seems, really are better multi-tasking – particularly if those tasks include searching for lost items, research suggests.
This means they are likely to be better at finding car keys during the early morning rush, in which breakfast has to be eaten and children readied for school.
Researchers pitted men against women in two experiments designed to simulate real-life situations in which people have to juggle several tasks.
In the first, the volunteers played a computer game that required rapid changes of attention. Both genders slowed down but the women slowed less.
This, say the researchers, suggests that they found multi-tasking easier.
In the second, men and women were given eight minutes to complete a set of sums, search for restaurants on a map and sketch out the route they would take to search for a set of keys lost in a field.
They also had to deal with the distraction of a ringing phone – and answering questions if they picked it up.
The two sexes did similarly well on all the tasks apart from the key hunt – in which the searches planned by the women were judged to be superior, the journal BMC Psychology reports.
When it is the only thing to be done, both sexes are equally good at strategic planning.
But the experiment by researchers at Glasgow, Leeds and Hertfordshire universities showed that men’s ability to plan a search for lost keys breaks down when put under the pressure of multi-tasking.
The researchers said that while the work needs to be repeated with bigger groups of volunteers, the results point to greater skills in women. Although many people already believe this to be true, the topic has been little studied until now.
It has been suggested that women’s apparent superiority at juggling tasks has its roots in evolution.
Lead researcher, Gijsbert Stoet, of Glasgow University, said: “In the Stone Age, men could probably go out and hunt for food, whereas the women stayed at the base and multi-tasked.
“They were always looking out for their toddlers and other children, while doing other stuff like gathering mushrooms and fruits and doing mending and making stone tools.
“Men probably have somewhat more of a one-track mind.” - Daily Mail