multitask: Gender differences in multi-tasking ability

Description Usage Format Details Source


Data from a student experiment on gender differences in multi-tasking ability




A data frame with 22 observations on the following 11 variables.


a factor of unique subject identification numbers


subject gender, a factor with levels male female


subject age in years, a numeric vector


year in school, a factor with levels freshman sophmore junior senior


member of a Greek fraternity or sorority, a factor with levels yes no


grade point average on 4-point scale with 4 = perfect A average, 3 = B average, etc., a numeric vector


did subject complete this study for extra credit? A factor with levels yes no


performance on a math test in the single-task condition


performance on a math test in the multi-task condition


performance on a test of movie details in the single-task condition


performance on a test of movie details in the multi-task condition


Materials Three tasks were used to measure participants' ability to multitask: watching a video, taking a written math test, and responding to instant messages. The math questions consisted of basic algebra and other high school-level questions taken from the ACT practice tests (The College Board, 2007). The films involved were Disney films, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and participants were asked questions regarding details that would need to be observed in the clips. A researcher in another room used a laptop connected to the internet via campus wireless network connection to communicate with participants. Instant messages, a communication tool that allows users to communicate via typed messages transmitted instantly to another user, were transmitted via AOL Instant Messenger software. Participants had been told to expect a series of messages and to respond as quickly as possible through the trial. Messages covered a broad range of topics, including: "What is your favorite color?" "Do you have a favorite sports team?" or "How many siblings do you have?" Participants viewed five-minute clips from Disney's Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (-1:08:10 to -1:03:25) shown on a 32 inch RCA television and completed a sheet of ten questions related to each clip. Some example questions include "What animal danced near the gypsy" and "What was the rank of the gentleman in blue?" The films used in the single-task condition and the multi-task condition were alternated with each trial. The math assessment consisted of 40 sample ACT Math questions (The College Board, 2007). Problems were selected with the goal of finding a set that participants would be able to complete without the aide of a calculator. Questions were divided into two groups of 20: one for the single-task trial and one for the multi-task trial. The set given for each trial alternated with each session. An example question is, "Which of the following is equivalent to (x)(x)(x)(x), for all x ?" with choice of answers 4x, x^4, x+4, 4^x, or 2x^2. Additionally, the study included an eight-item demographic questionnaire, which participants completed at the end of the session. The questions included gender, age, major, year in school, ethnicity, Greek affiliation, and GPA. Procedure Participants were told the study would examine the effects of multi-tasking on work quality. All participants signed an informed consent form prior to participating. Trials were run with eight participants in a group. Each participant completed a single-task trial and a multiple-task trial, with half of the participants being randomly assigned to begin with the single task and the other half completing the multiple task first. In order to complete the single-task trial, participants were placed in an adjacent room, which was empty. Participants sat at tables in pairs of two, each facing the front of the room. For the multiple-task trial, participants were seated at a block of four computers. The configuration of the four stations was such that each participant had another participant approximately three feet to his/her left or right and was also facing another participant at a distance of approximately five feet. For the single task, each participant completed 20 math problems, viewed a five minute film clip and completed a sheet of questions related to the clip, which was collected at the end of the clip. The television was positioned at the front of the room, within ten feet of each participant. For the multiple-task test, participants completed 20 different but similar math problems. However, they simultaneously responded to instant messages sent from a researcher in another room and, while watching a five-minute film clip, completed a worksheet asking questions about details from the film clip. As in the single-task condition, the television was positioned at the front of the room approximately ten feet from the participants. The worksheet was collected at the end of the film clip, and another five minutes were allowed before ending the instant message conversation and collecting the math problem worksheets. After participants completed both the single- and multiple-tasks, they filled out a short survey sheet with basic demographic information, including gender, year in college, GPA, and age. Participants were given a written debriefing form, thanked for their participation, offered cookies, and dismissed.


Bauer, K., DeVincentis, D., & Taber, J. (2008). Gender differences in the effects of multi-tasking performance. Unpublished manuscript, Hanover College, Hanover, IN. Available online at:

DeducerPSY220 documentation built on May 31, 2017, 2:40 a.m.