There’s a newly recognized group of elite human minds – the “supertaskers.” Only 2% of people are supertaskers, another name for successful multitaskers. Multitasking is a skill that many of us believe we have, but, in fact, 98 percent of us are far from efficient at multitasking. David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, studies attention and coined the term “supertasker” when he happened across a student who challenged his previously believed notion that multitask-deficiency was universal.
“Our brain can’t handle the overload,” Strayer said to explain that multitasking is difficult for nearly everyone, even if the person performing it believes that they’re functioning at top speed. Strayer and his team designed a test that had subjects multitask while trying not to crash in a driving simulator and perform memory tasks and analyze math problems all at once. If you think that you could do it and do it well, you’re probably wrong, but you’re welcomed to try Strayer’s online version. Almost everyone is worse at multitasking than they think they are. “The more people try and do, the worse they perform on every task,” Strayer said. He thought that was an unbreakable multitasking rule until a female student proved him wrong by acing every test.
Supertaskers excel at cognitive tasks and their performance doesn’t suffer in the least when they do different things simultaneously – in fact it sometimes gets better. This genetically gifted two percent matched or outperformed tests given to them prior to the simulation, proving that multitasking is unlikely but definitively possible. According to Strayer, those who think that they’re the best multitaskers are usually the worst – so take the test and see! It will take some time, it’s research after all, so be prepared to sit by the computer during 20 rounds (you can take a break between them) while testing your multitasking prowess. At the end of the round, you’ll receive a score though there’s no specified “correct” or “incorrect” feedback.
Strayer’s research helps to answer why texting-while-driving is as dangerous as it is. Multiple states have anti-texting rules while on the road because multitasking becomes deadly when behind the wheel. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving and twenty-three times more dangerous than normal driving. Even if you think you’re in that two percent of elite multitaskers – put the phone away.