Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Multitasking: New Study Challenges Previous Cognitive Theory But Shows That Only A Few “Supertaskers” Can Drive And Phone

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF – internal link)

A new study from University of Utah psychologists found a small group of people with an extraordinary ability to multitask: Unlike 97.5 percent of those studied, they can safely drive while chatting on a cell phone.

These individuals – described by the researchers as “supertaskers” – constitute only 2.5 percent of the population. They are so named for their ability to successfully do two things at once: in this case, talk on a cell phone while operating a driving simulator without noticeable impairment.

Jason Watson, a University of Utah psychologist, negotiates cybertraffic in a driving simulator used to study driver distractions such as cell phones and testing. While many people think they can safely drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time, Watson's new study shows only one in 40 is a "supertasker" who can perform both tasks at once without impairment of abilities measured in the study. Credit: Valoree Dowell, University of Utah

The study, conducted by psychologists Jason Watson and David Strayer, is now in press for publication later this year in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

This finding is important not because it shows people can drive well while on the phone – the study confirms that the vast majority cannot – but because it challenges current theories of multitasking. Further research may lead eventually to new understanding of regions of the brain that are responsible for supertaskers’ extraordinary performance.

“According to cognitive theory, these individuals ought not to exist,” says Watson. “Yet, clearly they do, so we use the supertasker term as a convenient way to describe their exceptional multitasking ability. Given the number of individuals who routinely talk on the phone while driving, one would have hoped that there would be a greater percentage of supertaskers. And while we’d probably all like to think we are the exception to the rule, the odds are overwhelmingly against it. In fact, the odds of being a supertasker are about as good as your chances of flipping a coin and getting five heads in a row.”

The researchers assessed the performance of 200 participants over a single task (simulated freeway driving), and again with a second demanding activity added (a cell phone conversation that involved memorizing words and solving math problems). Performance was then measured in four areas—braking reaction time, following distance, memory, and math execution.

As expected, results showed that for the group, performance suffered across the board while driving and talking on a hands-free cell phone.

For those who were not supertaskers and who talked on a cell phone while driving the simulators, it took 20 percent longer to hit the brakes when needed and following distances increased 30 percent as the drivers failed to keep pace with simulated traffic while driving. Memory performance declined 11 percent, and the ability to do math problems fell 3 percent.

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However, when supertaskers talked while driving, they displayed no change in their normal braking times, following distances or math ability, and their memory abilities actually improved 3 percent.

The results are in line with Strayer’s prior studies showing that driving performance routinely declines under “dual-task conditions” – namely talking on a cell phone while driving – and is comparable to the impairment seen in drunken drivers.

Yet contrary to current understanding in this area, the small number of supertaskers showed no impairment on the measurements of either driving or cell conversation when in combination. Further, researchers found that these individuals’ performance even on the single tasks was markedly better than the control group.

“There is clearly something special about the supertaskers,” says Strayer. “Why can they do something that most of us cannot? Psychologists may need to rethink what they know about multitasking in light of this new evidence. We may learn from these very rare individuals that the multitasking regions of the brain are different and that there may be a genetic basis for this difference. That is very exciting. Stay tuned.”

Watson and Strayer are now studying expert fighter pilots under the assumption that those who can pilot a jet aircraft are also likely to have extraordinary multitasking ability.

The current value society puts on multitasking is relatively new, note the authors. As technology expands throughout our environment and daily lives, it may be that everyone – perhaps even supertaskers – eventually will reach the limits of their ability to divide attention across several tasks.

“As technology spreads, it will be very useful to better understand the brain’s processing capabilities, and perhaps to isolate potential markers that predict extraordinary ability, especially for high-performance professions,” Watson concludes.

Information from University of Utah

Read The Original Research Paper HERE (PDF – internal link)

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March 31, 2010 Posted by | anxiety, Books, brain, Cognition, Health Psychology, research, stress, Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sex: Is that all that men want?…NOPE!

A study from the Kinsey Institute strongly challenges the myth that men value sex more highly than other things. The findings relating to what men value and how they rate their sense of masculinity are robust across age, nationality and erectile function. Diana KirschnerPhD.  has summarised the findings on the Psychology Today site (http://psychologytoday.com ) as follows:

View The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF -internal link)

“(The) data … came out of an eight country random survey of 27,839 men ages 20-752. Using a questionnaire called the Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality(MALES), the authors found men’s attitudes towards two key areas, masculinity and quality of life, differed markedly from the cultural stereotypes of guys as shallow creatures who are driven primarily by lust.

In the masculinity section of the study and across all countries, being seen as a “man of honor” was the single highest ideal for men, far more important than “being physically attractive,” “having success with women,” or “having an active sex life.” Together with “being in control of your own life” these two attributes accounted for about 60% of the responses. These findings held across all nationalities and across all age groups.

In the MALES section called Quality of Life, men were asked to rate the following seven

• Being in good health
• Satisfying sex life
• Harmonious family life
• Good relationship with partner/wife
• Enjoying life to the fullest
• Satisfying
• Having a nice home

Again, the findings were quite surprising. The top three answers were: “being in good health”; “a harmonious family life”; and “good relationship with partner/wife.” “A satisfying sex life” was last, tied with “a nice home.” While there was definitely variability in the top answersdepending on country, “a satisfying sex life” always came last. Even more astonishing were the findings in regard to age and marital/partner status. Younger men, age 20-39 still rated the same three goals as most important. When comparing single vs. married men, the only difference was that singles rated “enjoying live to the fullest” in second placealong with “a harmonious family life”-while “a good relationship with their partner” was ranked fourth. Again “a satisfying sex life” was rated last.

Amazingly enough men who had erectile dysfunction (ED) as well as those who did not, still rated “a satisfying sex life” the same way-dead last. Understandably, men with ED reported having a less satisfying sexual life than those without ED.”

View The Original Research Paper HERE (Free PDF -internal link)

Here’s the abstract:

Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality

Introduction. The Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (MALES) study assessed the prevalence   of erectile dysfunction, and examined men’s attitudes and behavior in relation to this dysfunction.

Aim. To report on the attitudes of men, with and without self-reported erectile dysfunction, concerning masculine identity and quality of life.

Methods. The MALES Phase I study included 27,839 randomly selected men (aged 20–75 years) from eight countries (United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Brazil) who responded to a standardized computer-assisted telephone interview.Main Outcome Measure. Perceptions of masculinity and quality of life in men with and without erectile dysfunction.

Results. Men’s perceptions of masculinity differed substantially from stereotypes in the literature. Men reported that being seen as honorable, self-reliant, and respected by friends were important determinants of self-perceived masculinity. In contrast, factors stereotypically associated with masculinity, such as being physically attractive,sexually active, and successful with women, were deemed to be less important to men’s sense of masculinity. These findings appeared consistently across all nationalities and all age groups studied. For quality of life, factors that men deemed of significant importance included good health, harmonious family life, and a good relationship with their wife/partner. Such factors had significantly greater importance to quality of life than concerns such as having a good job, having a nice home, living life to the full, or having a satisfying sex life. Of note, rankings of constructs of masculinity and quality of life did not meaningfully differ in men with or without erectile dysfunction, and men with erectile dysfunction who did or did not seek treatment for their sexual dysfunction.

Conclusions. The present findings highlight the significance of partnered relationships and interpersonal factors in the management of erectile dysfunction, and empirically challenge a number of widely held stereotypes concerning men, masculinity, sex, and quality of life.

Sand MS, Fisher W, Rosen R, Heiman J, and Eardley I. Erectile dysfunction and constructs of masculinity and quality of life in the multinational Men’s Attitudes to Life Events and Sexuality (MALES) study. J Sex Med 2008;5:583–594.Key Words. Erectile Dysfunction; Quality of Life; Masculinity; Gender Identity

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March 2, 2010 Posted by | Health Psychology, Sex & Sexuality, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment