back to article Are you a 'supertasker'? Probably not

Trick-cyclists in America say they have discovered that about 2.5 per cent of the human race are so-called "supertaskers", able to do more than one thing at a time without loss of performance. In particular, supertaskers can drive safely while talking on the phone. "According to cognitive theory, these individuals ought not to …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Gold badge
Coat

Superneologisms.

So, if you are an Australian bloke driving along with a jar of sauce in your lap, does that make you a "Supertanker"?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/19/pasta_sauce/

1
0

I wonder

If this is a genetic thing, or possibly a "skill" that can be taught

Playing guitar and singing at the same time took a long time to learn, and is a form of proper multitasking, I learned that, can I learn to do this "supertasking"

1
0

In Extremis

I've seen this here in Finland. An article in the English pages of YLE (Finnish version of Auntie Beeb)* suggests that Finns are in a genetic class of their own. Boy, have I seen examples. Once, in Tampere - a city mid-Finland - I saw a bloke stop midway crossing the busy road to answer a call. He simply stopped moving, like he'd gone into neutral. Same in a room - if someone talks to someone as they're entering a meeting, they'll stop. In the doorway.

Shops and pubs the same. If you're standing at the bar, and the 'barman' is stacking bottles, you're studiously ignored 'till they've finished. Maybe 10 minutes.......

My G/F has commented often that I can write drivel like this, and hold a conversation on an unrelated subject (such as discussing the recipe for tonight) at the same time. Maybe I'm one of them multitasking so-and-so's?

Yet puzzlingly so, we have great airline pilots. I've always been able to walk away from any Finnair landing.

*http://www.yle.fi/uutiset/news/2010/03/finns_in_a_genetic_class_of_their_own_1534715.html

0
0
Gold badge
Happy

@Andus McCoatover

Sounds almost autistic. I note from the article they are genetically similar to the Dutch.

This reminds me of a Dutch co-worker. She'd have a conversation and pop a glass of milk in the microwave. She'd keep forgetting to get it out with the inevitable explosion. Stuck in my mind because most women multi-task pretty well. I've had real trouble talking to some (older) men when they are doing *anything* else. If you're used to working with people who can mult-task it's a *real* pain to deal with people who can't.

0
0
Gold badge

Could be worse.

Could be Belgians. SIngletasking seems to be a bit of challenge there as they somehow manage to make a right horlicks of driving while not doing anything else.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

After the clocks going back and a night without enough sleep

I'm not confident of doing one task, never mind more than that ;)

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Is that unitasking or monotasking?

I think you now need to wind your clock forward two hours to compensate for the hour you set it back.

0
0

talking on comms while flying is actually mandatory...

Well yes.

But this is done according to strict protocols learned by rote, and the conversation concerns matters directly related to the pilot's main activity. Furthermore, comms is half duplex while a phone conversation is full duplex.

Not quite comparable to dealing with one's mother-in-law while in rush-hour traffic on the motorway methinks...

Furthermore, the priorities are: Aviate, navigate, communicate. Which means that keeping the plane in the air and knowing where it's going takes precedence over comms.

3
0
Go

Lower than Mensa entry

"2.5 per cent of the human race are so-called "supertaskers",

"And while we'd probably all like to think we are the exception to the rule, the odds are overwhelmingly against it."

That's odds of better than 1 in 50 - not overwhelming odds in my book. Also mensa entry is the top 2% of the population, so being a supertasker is marginally more probably than being a Mensa candidate.

All we need to know now is the ratio of white vans to other road users, methinks. Perchance could they be 49 in 50?

1
0
Happy

Mensa?

Having Down's Syndrome is even more exclusive than Mensa with only ~0.1% of the population being members of that club, compared to the 2% suffering from Mensa membership.

One in fifty is still a "small" chance, maybe not overwhelmingly small, but it's safe to assume that neither you or I or most of the people reading this are supertaskers.

Damn, I just lost the game of Tetris I'm playing with the other hand. :-(

0
0
Silver badge

driving and talking

So are we going to see a ban on carrying passengers?

Child seats in cars should be made completely illegal? If you think talking on the phone is bad the kids are far more distracting.

How about banning car radios too? Drivers argue with the presenter.

That's before we get onto driving while bored and therefore day dreaming.

Why is all this research always highlighting the use of mobes.

0
0
Joke

Hmmmm...

If one particularly gifted individual was both a supertasker and a supertaster, then they could drive, talk on a phone and taste waaaaaaaay too much of the food they're eating, ALL AT ONCE.

1
0
Unhappy

talking whilst flying?

Er.. flying straight and level is not something that requires the sort of concentration that driving down the high street does (unless you happen to be flying at 250' whilst admiring the seals basking on Blakeney Point) . As well you know, there is a degree of compulsory muttering that has to be done in and around yer average airfield which is not going to go away.

A more serious point is that there is a BIIIIIG difference between having a headset attached to your head doing short simplex comms, in one's best CAP413 manner, and having a intimate (and duplex) conversation with one's significant other with the car in one hand (as it were) and one's Jesus phone glued to an ear with the other. Which is confirmed by other research which is hard to find and therefore never mentioned.

1
0
Silver badge
Pint

One trick pon^H^H^Hunicyclists?

One would think these fellows don't know how the mind works or worse yet believe that everyone's mind works the same way. Perhaps they could do themselves a favor and watch a clip of Richard Feynmann here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj4y0EUlU-Y

0
0

I know I'm not

I can't multitask at all, unless you count breathing as one of those tasks.

I can multi-thread, but I only have the one processor.

I never answer the phone when driving, and I don't fly jets, probably a good job really.

1
0
Joke

Walking and chewing gum?

That's a tried and true test of multitasking. But don't do it anywhere near a road the first time, in case of failure.

0
0
Coat

Consult a trick-cyclist

You appear to have developed a language "tick". Kindly use more diverse comedy puns in future.

Mine's on the couch.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

That can be learned

That can be learned... and unlearned also. I used to be able to do 2 tasks at the same time, like chatting on the phone and writing software or reading. Sadly as time passed I used it less (there was no need for it) and I cannot reliably do it any more. I can still code or read during conference calls, but that everybody can ;)

I also know one guy who can type on 2 keyboards at the same time, different texts. Not breaking any speed records, but still. It is possible, although requires bit of training.

Still, all fricking mobiles should be banned in cars. Best, put a little jamming station in each car, as soon as it moves, no signal. There are way too many morons on the roads already, even when not distracted by chatting on the phone.

1
0
Boffin

Is it possible

That these people have a "natural" ability for driving, so they need to lend less of their brainpower to it in the first place?

Trained professional drivers do this all of the time (police, racing drivers, etc) and I have no doubt that some of them find it pretty easy,whereas others need to work at it. I heard a Williams race engineer talking about this in an interview a good few years ago; he said Nigel Mansell was a natural driver who could just jump in the car and drive fast while talking to the pits on the radio and Damon Hill needed to practice it all the time.

The implication is that it is possible to train people to drive and use a mobile at the same time, but you'd need to couple that with some kind of certification and re-test system.

I think the real problem is that a lot of people make the business of driving the fourth or fifth thing on their list of priorities when they are driving, so when the mobile goes off it slips even further down the list. I travel a lot of miles and I quite often find myself reacting to stuff before people who are well in front of me (e.g. passing four or five "lane closed" signs and *still* almost running into the cones).

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Psychiatrists?

Or psychologists? Different fields you know.

0
0

Learned

Sounds more like a learned ability to me. Practice makes perfect. NOT that anyone should practice driving whilst talking on a mobile - inconsiderate, (potentially) murdering little pricks.

1
0
Joke

I'll get my coat now

'a supertasker' - is that another name for 'a woman'?

Women seem to be able to multitask far better than most men... They listen to the radio and yet can cook/iron at the same time!

Yet every bloke I know seems to have problems performing even basic multitasking (including me I'm afraid)!

anon for obvious reasons.

1
0
Silver badge

One question

Are those supertaskers also superjerks ?

What are the odds ?

0
0
WTF?

trick-cyclist?

What is a Trick-cyclists? I'm a yank, but the story said in America, so I assume they're among us...

0
0

Trick-cyclist?

British slang for psychiatrist. As in "My Trick-cyclist told me I was a 'cycle-path' " (psychopath)

HTH.

-Andus

0
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Trained reflexes?

We can (almost) all walk and chew gum at the same time. Most can walk and think (or converse) at the same time. But more than a few of us have had the experience that while thinking hard about one thing, our feet have taken us along the path of habit, rather than the one intended.

Some activities are largely or exclusively trained reflexes. Walking is one such: conscious input is needed only to set the destination, if it's a route that you've travelled very many times. I suspect that for some people more than others, driving is another such activity.

An interesting proof of how this works can be offered by physiotherapists. An injury may train you to walk or run differently. When the injury has fully healed, one's reflexes may stay differently-trained. A physio's job may be to provide conscious input and/or to devise exercises to force a patient's reflexes back to the more efficient "normal" pattern, away from the ones "trained" by the injury.

So, do "supertaskers" have an above-average ability (or tendency) to delegate routine matters to their subconscious, which routinely looks after many things simultaneously?

0
0
Joke

Well I don't know about drive and talk on the phone...

...I found reading the article and posting this reply whilst driving a bit tricky!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

ADD and multitasking.

I wonder what the instance of "supertasking" is when related to people who have real, actual ADD. Proper ADD, not 80's and 90's style "let's give Ritalin to every kid who irritates us" is a complete inability to 'filter' extraneous input. Picture it this way: you are in a crowded noisy room full of people. You are having a conversation with the individual directly in front of you. The average person can "tune out" all conversations/movement/smells/etc. and focus entirely on the conversation at hand. Someone with true ADD simply can’t; they lack that part of their brain.

Now, with time and training, someone with ADD can learn to re-direct the extraneous input elsewhere; process it independently from the primary conversation. They will still however retain a greater awareness of their surroundings than someone without ADD. (It can be considered the one “gift” that comes with the affliction.)

I myself have ADD; but I was taught fairly young some neat tricks to deal with it. (Geek fact: the best currently known methods for dealing with ADD were developed here in my hometown. No, they don’t involve drugs, but instead involve the precursor technology to the “neural impulse actuator” tech currently making the rounds of computer input companies.) One thing I can tell you about having ADD is that once I learned how to deal with it, it seems to allow me the ability to legitimately split my focus without much (if any) noticeable degradation in performance. This has limits; put me in a room filled with too many people and there is a time limit before a skull-splitting migraine develops.

I will use a computing metaphor. I am gifted with multiple cores to run my various threads on; but I can’t run multiple threads on a single core.

This all brings me back to the question of “what would the instance of supertasking abilities be when compared against people with legitimate ADD?” I’d really love to find out.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Supertasking?

I can't drive and I don't own a mobile, but that's not going to stop me commentating on this thread.

0
0

Allow me to be the first...

...to welcome the unmasking of our here-among-us-all-the-time supertasking overlords.

0
0

This post has been deleted by a moderator

(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Supertasking - factually corrected

Andus - a moderator in the US office rejects posts at 5am. I reject posts now, and neither your tiresome Bernard Manningisms nor your whinings about being rejected are going to get through. Behave yourself.

0
0

Nuff said, Sarah

Er, it was Connolly, not the late, great Bernard Manning. (A Multitasker of merit.)

But, thanks for letting it through. If I ever make the mistake of stepping on England's Green^H Brown and Pleasant again, I'll buy you a beer/G&T/whatever. However far my dole stretches...

-Andus (suitably chastised)

0
0
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Nuff said, Sarah

Dammit, the system now accepts comments automatically if I respond to them. I'll remember that for next time. I didn't mean to accept your idiotic comment at all. In fact, I'm removing it now.

0
1
Unhappy

Silly, Silly girl.

Nuff said.

0
0
Gold badge

Oh really?

So all we have to do to get a post accepted by the moderator is provoke you into responding?

Fantastic! Off to plot Sarah-provoking content. [Insert mad cackling here.]

1
0
(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Oh really?

I've got your number, Pott, you just try it.

0
0
Coat

Do you think...

... that the trick-cyclists considered the cogno-intellectual side of the Supertaskers problem?

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums