Most are terrible multitaskers but believe the opposite, U. study says

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sending an e-mail while in a meeting. Talking on the phone in the car. Multitasking seems like the norm these days. But a new study from the University of Utah says, literally, hold the phone.

Far less than you would think are actually good at doing more than one thing at a time. The problem, according to the study, is that even though most of us can't multitask effectively, the majority of us believe we do.

"We're trying to go beyond the typical crash data you get from the some of the accident analysis that you get at the federal level and understand something about the person," said lead author David Strayer.

The art of multitasking is considered a plus on most resumes. Doing it well can make you extremely valuable to a company or business. The majority of us do it every day in a car. But Strayer has this art form down to a science.

The study looked at more than 300 students' multitasking abilities and personalities.

They found that "the people who do it the most are kind of the least capable of doing it," according to Strayer.

Of the students tested, 70 percent believed they were above average when it comes to multitasking. Those within that 70 percent tend to be more impulsive, more likely to seek out sensations and more likely to be overconfident in their abilities.


In fact, the new study suggests that only 2.5 percent of those surveyed can actually multitask. That means a little more than 97 percent of us are bad at it.

The goal of the study was to help change people's mindset. Strayer's hope is to help show that multitasking, while necessary sometimes at work, can be counterproductive and can have deadly consequences in a car.

"If you're going to try to change people's behavior and change people's attitudes towards texting or talking while they're driving, you should understand why they do it to begin with," Strayer said.

The study was published this month in the journal PLOS ONE.


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