Supertaskers: The rare few who can multitask

Several studies have shown that it's impossible for most people to concentrate on two or more things at once --homework and Facebook updates, for example, or driving and talking on the phone. But new research has found that about 2.5 percent of the population are supertaskers, capable of multitasking without suffering a decline in performance. University of Utah researchers set up 200 volunteers in a driving simulator and gave them each a cell phone. As they drove, they had to hit the brakes occasionally to avoid hitting a virtual car in front of them; meanwhile, they had to respond to a series of word and math tests through their phones.

The vast majority of subjects were terrible at multitasking: They were 20 percent slower to hit the brakes and performed worse on the phone-mediated word and math tests. But to the surprise of the researchers, one in 40 people excelled at performing two tasks at once, indicating that they could simultaneously concentrate on driving and a challenging phone conversation. There is clearly something special about the supertaskers, study author tells LiveScience.com. It may be that human beings have only recently developed the skill, he says, or it may be that some people's brains naturally have the ability to handle several tasks at once. Researchers now plan to study fighter pilots, chefs, orchestra conductors, and TV producers to see if there is a high percentage of supertaskers in some professions. Meanwhile, they warn against assuming you're one of the exceptions, since the odds are so heavily against it ;-)

Only one out of 40 people can pull it off... do you know a supertasker? I do. Post your comment here!



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