Only two percent of people can play Angry Birds, answer texts, and listen to NPR all at once without breaking a sweat. The rest of us can hardly multitask at all.
“The ninety-eight per cent of us…tend to overrate our ability to multitask,” claims University of Utah professor David Strayer. But in a new study, Strayer found a few participants who could multitask incredibly well — e.g.: drive and browse apps without ever losing focus, the New Yorker reports.
In search for more of these ‘supertaskers,’ as Strayer calls them, he teamed up with the University of Newcastle in Australia to create a web-based test and scout them out.
“Now that we have the Internet version…we can have thousands of people testing,” he said. “It takes a lot of time to find them, but now we will finally have the numbers we need.”
Strayer’s tests often involve a mix of auditory and visual input, such as solving math problems while memorizing word pairs. The online test, “Gate Keeper,” asks players to role-play as a nightclub bouncer, fielding auditory passwords from multiple doors, as “uncool” people try to crash the party.
It’s noteworthy that some experts think everyone can improve the way they deal with information overload, even if they don’t ultimately become supertaskers. University of Rochester cognitive scientist Daphne Bavelier says video games train the brain to handle multiple data streams. So, now we can convince ourselves that playing Mario Kart is really an exercise in self-improvement.
Here’s a link to the test so you can play it yourself and find out if you’re one of those rare supertaskers. Either way, it’s probably best to put the phone down while driving — or while walking near a mall water fountain.