People who often multitask are actually terrible at it, according to new research.
A new study revealed that people who do frequently do many things at once are actually the worst at multitasking and at concentrating on single tasks.
A team of researchers from the University of Utah found that serial multi-taskers do several things at once not because they are good at it, but because they are easily distracted and cannot focus on the job at hand.
On the other hand, people who are best at multitasking are the least likely to do so because they are better at focusing on completing one thing at a time.
The study, based on performances and self-evaluations by about 310 undergraduate students, revealed that 70 percent of participants believed that they are better than average at doing several things at once, which researchers say is statistically impossible.
"The people who are most likely to multitask harbor the illusion they are better than average at it, when in fact they are no better than average and often worse," researcher Professor David Strayer said in a statement.
Researchers had participants complete tests and questionnaires designed to measure their actual multitasking ability against their perceived multitasking ability.
Researchers also measured how likely participants were to use their cell phones or other electronic media while driving as well as their personality traits such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking.
The findings showed that people who scored high on actual multitasking were less likely to multitask compared to others because they were better at focusing on completing one job at a time.
However, participants who scored low on actual multitasking were more likely to do many things at once because they were more impulsive, more easily distracted and had an inflated sense of their ability to complete two tasks at once.
"If you have people multitasking a lot, you might come to the conclusion that they are good at multitasking. In fat, the more likely they are to do it, the more likely they are to be bad at it," Strayer explained.
"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," he said.
Researchers warn that overestimating one's own multitasking ability can be dangerous.
"What is alarming is that people who talk on cell phones while driving tend to be the people least able to multitask well," co-author Professor David Sanbonmatsu said in a statement.