Supertaskers Who Balance Cell Phone, Car are Few

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It's a's a's Supertasker.

University of Utah psychologists have labeled those few – just 2.5% of the population – who can drive safely while yapping on a hands-free cellphone as "supertaskers."

drive cell phone
Artwork: Chip Taylor
Jason Watson and David Strayer studied 200 individuals on a driving simulator to come up with their findings, which will be published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Their research, which looked at driving factors such as braking reaction time and following distance, could lead to more studies on which parts of the brain handle multitasking and how.

Also see: Turning 5,000 discarded cellphones into art

"According to cognitive theory, these individuals ought not to exist," says Watson in a statement. "Yet, clearly they do, so we use the supertasker term as a convenient way to describe their exceptional multitasking ability. Given the number of individuals who routinely talk on the phone while driving, one would have hoped that there would be a greater percentage of supertaskers. And while we'd probably all like to think we are the exception to the rule, the odds are overwhelmingly against it. In fact, the odds of being a supertasker are about as good as your chances of flipping a coin and getting five heads in a row."

The research confirmed earlier and separate University of Utah and Carnegie Mellon University research that, not surprisingly, found driving while using a cellphone is dumb and dangerous. The research found that drivers who talked on a cellphone had a drop-off in response time similar to drunk drivers.

Legislators across the U.S. have pushed for various local and national bans on driving while phoning and texting.

As for the Utah researchers, they are now studying fighter pilots, assuming they have superior multitasking ability.

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This story, "Supertaskers Who Balance Cell Phone, Car are Few" was originally published by Network World.

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