A small portion of the population excels at doing two or more things at once
Cell phone users frequently drive themselves to distraction while operating cars, and all too often end up in traffic accidents. But a select few multitask behind the wheel with extraordinary skill, a new study finds.
About one in 40 drivers qualifies as a “supertasker,” able to combine driving and cell phone use without impairing performance of either activity, say psychologists Jason Watson and David Strayer, both of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. These unusual exceptions to the general rule that performance declines when a person does two things at once (SN: 3/13/10, p. 16) may offer insights into the workings of attention and mental control, Watson and Strayer propose in an upcoming Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Laboratory tests of 200 volunteers operating a driving simulator identified five extraordinary individuals. These people were good drivers: They hit the brakes quickly in response to cars that slowed in front