People who believe they are good at multitasking are actually terrible at it, according to a new study from the University of Utah.
"What is alarming is that people who talk on cellphones while driving tend to be the people least able to multitask well," says psychology Professor David Sanbonmatsu, a senior author of the study.
"Our data suggest the people talking on cellphones while driving are people who probably shouldn't."
What's worse: practice doesn't help matters, at all. "In fact, the more likely they are to do it, the more likely they are to be bad at it," adds fellow senior author psychology professor David Strayer.
The research team tested multitasking ability among 310 university students, involving memorizing letters while calculating basic arithmetic problems. Students also ranked themselves on whether or not they were talented multitaskers.
Study subjects reported how often they used a mobile phone while driving and what percentage of the time they spent on the phone while driving. Participants also completed questionnaires that measure impulsivity and sensation-seeking, the researchers say.
Seventy percent of the participants said they were above-average at multitasking. The 25% of the subjects who performed best on the multitasking ability test "are the people who are least likely to multitask and are most likely to do one thing at a time," Sanbonmatsu says.
"The people who multitask the most tend to be impulsive, sensation-seeking, overconfident of their multitasking abilities, and they tend to be less capable of multitasking," says Strayer.
Findings appear in the journal "PLOS ONE." Access: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0054402