Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Multi-tasking - Why Men Can't

It is truly fascinating to watch my wife multi-task. Like most of her gender, she can talk on the phone, wash the dishes, keep an eye on dinner, and know that one of the kids is about to put crayon to wall.

As a student of the human condition, I have watched this phenomenon for years and wondered why we men are not blessed (I guess) with this ability. Brian, my teenage son, and I have discovered the answer. In almost all cases one of the tasks included in this group of tasks is "talking on the phone."

For a woman, this takes no effort or thought at all. She uses the phone for two main purposes: 1. To tell her friends the big story of the day or week. This has been repeated so many times that it is effortless to tell it again; 2. To listen to her friends tell their story of the week. The correct response to these stories are things like "I know," "Been there!," "Oh, I'm so sorry," or "That's great." So clearly, this doesn't distract at all from the other things going on in her world.

Men, on the other hand, can't use the phone as one of the tasks. To them, any call that lasts more than 2.5 minutes is way, way too long. Then, if they are listening to someone's story of the week, they are either trying desperately to one up the other person's success, or they are working like crazy to find a solution for their problem. So, in either case, they are totally distracted by the effort and the desire to be doing something else.

I suppose if Brian and I could devise a study, we might be able to get this theory published in the Journal of Social Psychology.

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