Scientists have backed up what most of us already suspected – women really are better multitaskers than men – and they might have discovered why.
In a study conducted by Swiss researchers, 83 volunteers were tasked with a complex language exercise as they walked on a treadmill.
When men and menopausal women performed the task, they walked with a slightly asymmetrical gait. But younger, premenopausal women walked normally.
The scientists specifically measured the symmetry of the swing of participants’ right arms, which are controlled by the left side of the brain, the same side that processes language.
They believe that oestrogen may boost the brain’s plasticity, explaining why younger women were “resistant” to the effects of the task.
“It may be due to oestrogen-mediated plasticity and attendant redundancy in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), where oestrogen receptors are plentiful,” the study’s authors wrote.
They added that the presence of oestrogen also explains why menopausal women were less resistant to the effects of the task.
“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,” Tim Killeen, a doctoral student at University Hospital Balgrist told the Telegraph.
“Whether this finding is generalisable to other examples of multitasking, such as driving and talking, walking and texting is speculative,” Killeen added.
In 2013, a landmark study revealed that women are better at multitasking than men, particularly when it comes to rapidly switching between tasks.