Your suspicions have been confirmed: women are better than men at multi-tasking, and a new study has discovered one possible reason behind it.
According to research published by the Royal Society Open Science, female sex hormones acting on the brain may determine women's ability to multi-task. The study also found that as those hormones decrease with age, women may find multi-tasking more troublesome later in life.
These results were found after a group of Swiss scientists asked 83 volunteers to walk on a treadmill while carrying out cognitive tasks to test the left side of the brain. The researchers found that when humans walk, they tend to swing their arms – particularly their right arms, to aid balance - but men and menopausal women were less able to do this at the same time as completing the tests. In contrast, younger pre-menopausal women did not have the same problem.
"Women under 60 are surprisingly resistant to this effect," the researches wrote. "Overcoming this interference appears to be a trait unique to younger females and implies significant gender differences at the top of the hierarchical chain of locomotor control."
The scientists said the resistance of women over 60 to complete cognitive and locomotive tests at the same time could be related to oestrogen located in the front of the brain. However, one of the researchers said more needs to be done to prove if the findings can be related to other examples of multi-tasking.
"We were surprised to find such a consistent gender difference in how two relatively simple behaviours - cognitive control and arm swing - interact with one another," Tim Killeen from the University Hospital Balgrist told The Telegraph.
"Others have shown that women are better at switching between tasks than men. We show that women are apparently better, i.e. less susceptible to interference during walking and talking and that this ability apparently fades after 60.
"Whether this finding is generalisable to other examples of multitasking, such as driving and talking, walking and texting is speculative. "
From Good Housekeeping