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Women 'better at multitasking'

Women 'better at multitasking' than men, study finds

Multitasking manThe average man was slower at juggling tasks than women, but there may be advantages to a one-track mind

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It is not a myth - women really are better than men at multitasking, at least in certain cases, a study says.
Men were slower and less organised than women when switching rapidly between tasks in tests by UK psychologists.
Both sexes struggled to cope with juggling priorities, but men suffered more on average, according to the paper in the journal BMC Psychology.
It says: "The question now is why? And is it all types of multitasking or only certain situations?"

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"This suggestion does rankle a bit with men. But there's no point denying these differences exist”
Prof Keith LawsUniversity of Hertfordshire
The researchers hope to encourage more research on a topic which they say has attracted "astonishingly few" studies - considering how often the "women vs men" debate crops up in conversation.
If men really are slower than women, it could have serious implications for how workplaces are organised, says co-author Dr Gijsbert Stoet, of the University of Glasgow.
"Multitasking is getting more and more important in the office - but it's very distracting, all these gadgets interrupting our workflow.
"It could be that men suffer more from this constant switching," he told BBC News.
Previous studies on gender and multitasking have drawn widely different conclusions.
One experiment in China found that women outperformed their male counterparts, while another in Sweden found that men may actually be better than women at multitasking when spatial tasks are involved.
To settle the argument, Dr Stoet and a colleague set out to compare women and men in a certain type of multitasking; the kind we use when faced with juggling many tasks in rapid succession - but not quite simultaneously.

How good are you at multitasking?

Test screengrab
Try the multitasking test used by Dr Gijsbert Stoet in his experiment.
These might include office workers who jump between incoming emails, phone calls and assignments, while running in and out of meetings. Another example might be parents in the household - cooking a meal while looking after young children and suddenly having to answer the phone.
First, they compared 120 women and 120 men in a computer test which involves switching between tasks involving counting and shape-recognition.
Men and women were equal when tasks were tackled one at a time. But when the tasks were mixed up there was a clear difference.
Both women and men slowed down, and made more mistakes, as the switching became more rapid.
But the men were significantly slower - taking 77% longer to respond, whereas women took 69% longer.
"This difference may seem small, but it adds up" over a working day or week, said Dr Stoet.
To make the experiment more relevant to everyday life, the researchers tried a second test.
A group of women and men were given eight minutes to complete a series of tasks - locating restaurants on a map, doing simple maths problems, answering a phone call, and deciding how they would search for a lost key in a field.
Completing all these assignments in eight minutes was impossible - so it forced men and women to prioritise, organise their time, and keep calm under pressure.
In the key search task in particular, women displayed a clear performance advantage over men, says co-author Prof Keith Laws, of the University of Hertfordshire.
"You can see from the drawings - women used methodical search patterns, like going round the field in concentric rectangles. That's a highly productive strategy for finding a lost object.
"Whereas some men didn't even search the whole field in any particular manner, which is just bizarre."
Typical female (left) and male (right) approaches to 'lost key' taskExample of a female (left) and male (right) approach to searching for a lost key
The reason, he observed, was that women were more organised under pressure.
"They spent more time thinking at the beginning, whereas men had a slight impulsiveness, they jumped in too quickly," said Prof Laws.
"It suggests that - in a stressed and complex situation - women are more able to stop and think about what's going on in front of them."
Altogether, they conclude that women "have an advantage over men" in multitasking, at least in certain situations.
"This suggestion does rankle a bit with men," Prof Laws explained.
"Men tell me this just doesn't ring true with their experience. They regale me with stories about how the greatest pilots in the RAF are men and they have to deal with lots of different incoming information all the time.
"And of course there are men who are experts. We'd never claim that all men can't multitask, or that only women can.
"But we'd argue the average woman is better able to organise her time and switch between tasks than the average man.
"There's no point denying these differences exist."
Psychologist Dr Dongning Ren of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the study was a useful addition to the scientific debate.
Multitasking womanHave women evolved to be naturally better at multitasking? Or is it learned by practice?
"In my own research, I found similar results, so this adds support for this conclusion," she told the BBC.
"Still, it is possible that for certain tasks, men might be better at multitasking. It may depend on the nature of the tasks - sequential or simultaneous."
In a world where people increasingly have to multitask, we need to help individuals adapt their roles to their abilities, said Prof Laws.
"Of course I don't think we should just assign women to roles where rapid switching is demanded," he explained.
Instead, employers should consider assessing individuals' ability in multitasking, as some firms already do.
"Because the truth is - people don't seem to be very good at assessing themselves," Prof Laws told BBC News.
"Studies show that men tend to think they're better at multitasking than they are in reality, and women tend to think they're worse than they really are.
"I think I am great at it, but my wife thinks I'm not."
If women really are better than men, the obvious question is why?
It could be that what Dr Stoet and Prof Laws observed is a learning effect - where people become expert multitaskers by practice.
But there are plenty of evolutionary theories too - such as the hunter-gatherer hypothesis.
This invokes a rather traditional image of women at home, cooking and tending to the infants, with men out doing so-called "linear" tasks such as chasing and killing prey.
"Put simply - if women couldn't multitask, we wouldn't be here," said Dr Stoet.
And interestingly - compared to our closest relatives, the apes, we are all terrible at multitasking - men and women alike.
If humans have "lost" this ability during evolution, it suggests that our simple, one-track minds could actually give us an advantage, Dr Stoet explained.
"Filtering out distractions helps us to achieve things we couldn't otherwise do. Like making fire," he said, offering a grain of comfort to those who find themselves on the wrong side of the divide.

Why red wine is key to battling Alzheimer

Why red wine is key to battling Alzheimer

ANI | 23rd Oct 2013
Researchers including an Indian-origin scientist have discovered a link between ApoE4 and SirT1, an "anti-aging protein" targeted by resveratrol, present in red wine.
The major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), present in about two-thirds of people who develop the disease, is ApoE4, the cholesterol-carrying protein that about a quarter of us are born with. But one of the unsolved mysteries of AD is how ApoE4 causes the risk for the incurable, neurodegenerative disease.
The Buck researchers found that ApoE4 causes a dramatic reduction in SirT1, which is one of seven human Sirtuins.
Lead scientists Rammohan Rao, PhD, and Dale Bredesen, MD, founding CEO of the Buck Institute, say the reduction was found both in cultured neural cells and in brain samples from patients with ApoE4 and AD.
The Buck group also found that the abnormalities associated with ApoE4 and AD, such as the creation of phospho-tau and amyloid-beta, could be prevented by increasing SirT1. They have identified drug candidates that exert the same effect.
In particular, the researchers discovered that the reduction in SirT1 was associated with a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein (APP) is processed.
Rao said that ApoE4 favored the formation of the amyloid-beta peptide that is associated with the sticky plaques that are one of the hallmarks of the disease. He said with ApoE3 (which confers no increased risk of AD), there was a higher ratio of the anti-Alzheimer's peptide, sAPP alpha, produced, in comparison to the pro-Alzheimer's amyloid-beta peptide.
This finding fits very well with the reduction in SirT1, since overexpressing SirT1 has previously been shown to increase ADAM10, the protease that cleaves APP to produce sAPP alpha and prevent amyloid-beta.
The study has been published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



Washing hands can make you optimistic

Washing hands can make you optimistic

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HandsA recent study reveals that washing of hands can imply a optimistic outlook. (AP)
Washing your hands after you have failed at something can make you optimistic, a new study has found.
Washing our hands influences how we think, judge and decide, according to researchers who examined how physical cleansing affects people after failure.
They found that test subjects who washed their hands after a task were more optimistic than those who did not wash their hands, but it hampered their future performance in the same task domain.
For the experiment, Dr Kai Kaspar from the University of Cologne in Germany, took 98 subjects in three groups.
In the first part of the experiment, participants from two groups had to solve an impossible task. Both the group who after failing washed their hands as well as the one that did not wash their hands were optimistic that they would do better the second time.
The optimism of the group who washed their hands was, however, much greater.
In contrast to the usual finding that higher optimism results in better performance, the opposite was the case here: the subjects who did not wash their hands did considerably better than the group who washed their hands.
Instead, the performance of those who had washed their hands was on the level if the third group who had not experienced failure and only taken part in the second test run.
According to Kaspar, it can be concluded from the results that while physical cleansing after failure may eliminate negative feelings, it reduces the motivation to try harder in a new test situation to restore one's own perception of competence.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Daily aspirin

Daily aspirin 'risky' for healthy

Aspirin tabletsWill an aspirin a day keep the doctor away? Or just make visits more common?

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Healthy people should not take aspirin to ward off heart attacks and cancer, according to the most comprehensive review of the risks and benefits.
There has been growing debate about whether all people over 50 should take a daily, low dose aspirin.
But the review, conducted by the research arm of the NHS, said it was a "fine balance" due to the dangers of bleeding in the brain and stomach.
Overall it warned against taking the drug, until there was more evidence.
Aspirin makes the blood less sticky so it reduces the odds of a blood clot forming inside the body, which could cause a heart attack or stroke.
There are even studies suggesting it can cut the risk of some cancers.
However, as the drug makes it harder for the blood to clot it can cause problems inside the body.
The drug is given to people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke as the medical benefit is clear.
However, there have been calls to give aspirin to otherwise healthy people as well.
A team at Warwick Medical School was asked to assess the evidence by the NHS National Institute for Health Research.
For heart attacks and strokes, they concluded giving everyone aspirin would cause "net harm due to increased potential for bleeding".
This was in part due to better management of at-risk patients including prescribing drugs to lower blood pressure.
On cancer, they concluded the evidence was not strong enough to base a decision on, but trials taking place would give clearer proof in the next five years.
Prof Aileen Clarke, who led the review, told the BBC: "The risks are finely balanced and for now there is not the evidence to advise people to take it.
"It would be lovely to say over-50s should take an aspirin a day and have much less cancer, but the research hasn't yet been done and we should be cautious.
"We need to be extremely careful about over-promoting aspirin."
Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Aspirin is extremely important for many heart patients, but for people free of heart disease the jury is still out as the risks are likely to outweigh the benefits.
"Further research is underway which will shed light on who else is likely to benefit the most from taking aspirin."

'Hungry gene'

'Hungry gene' discovery may help solve obesity problem

Friday, Oct 25, 2013, 7:00 IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
'Hungry gene' discovery may help solve the obesity problem By Nick Collins Scientists have discovered a "hungry gene" which they believe could cause obesity.
A study has identified a possible genetic root to the insatiable appetite and slow metabolism in some people.
Looking at 2,101 patients who were severely obese, they found those with mutations of a gene called KSR2 were hungrier and burned fewer calories than people with a normal copy of the gene.
Dr Sadaf Farooqi, of Cambridge University, said: "Changes in diet and levels of physical activity underlie the recent increase in obesity.
However, some people gain weight more easily than others. This variation between people is largely influenced by genetic factors.
"The discovery of a new obesity gene, KSR2, demonstrates that genes can contribute to obesity by reducing the metabolic rate - how well the body burns calories."
Dr Farooqi said the discovery could provide clues as to how obesity develops and help develop new drugs to treat the condition as well as type-2 diabetes, which is linked with it. The study was published in the journal Cell.

Mum's anxiety

Mum's anxiety and depression rubs off adversely on children

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Researchers have discovered that a child, as young as 18 months of age, is at an increased risk of developing emotional and disruptive problems if his or her mother suffers from anxiety and depression symptoms.
According to the findings from the TOPP study, the risk persisted into adolescence and also gave an increased risk of depressive symptoms.
For the study, which was conducted at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, researchers used Norwegian mothers' self-reports of their own mental health and their children's problem behaviors, both disruptive and emotional, at five different ages from early childhood (18 months) to early adolescence (12.5 years).
Questionnaire data from the adolescents are from 14.5 years and 16.5 years old.
When the mother reported high levels of anxiety and depression symptoms early in the children's lives, the children had a higher risk of emotional and disruptive problem behaviors during their childhood, the  showed.
In addition, the children had a higher risk of reporting depressive symptoms during adolescence.
The association between maternal and later child problem behaviors was already present when the children were 18 months old.
The study is published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.