Multitasking Test

Business woman juggling 5 office items Welcome! You're about to take a test on Lab in the Wild.

How well can you multitask? Can you do a computer task and an unrelated thinking task at the same time? What happens then? Will the thinking task cause you to slow down on the computer task? Will the computer task cause you to make mistakes on the thinking task? Or will you focus and do both better?

Find out for yourself and compare your performance to others! Complete a few simple computer tasks while also trying to hold information in your short term memory and see what happens to your performance.

The test typically takes 10 minutes to complete.

This study requires a laptop or a tablet. It will not work on a phone. The test may also not work properly on older versions of Internet Explorer. We apologize for not being able to support all browsers.


Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Why?

These questions are optional, but if you could answer at least the first four, that would really help us.

Have you taken this test before? (important)

How old are you? (important)

How often do you use a computer? (important)

What device are you using to click right now? (important)

What is your gender?

Which hand to you use to write?

What is the highest level of education you have received or are pursuing?

In what country did you live most of your childhood?

In what country have you spent most of the past five years?

You have completed out of parts

Break time!

We have a few more (optional) questions for you.

I would prefer complex to simple problems

I like to have the responsibility of handling a situation that requires a lot of thinking

Thinking is not my idea of fun

I would rather do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge my thinking abilities

You have completed out of parts

Break time!

Some psychologists hypothesize that there are links between personality traits and multitasking. This is why we have added these extra questions. They are optional, but if you are willing to answer them, it will help us a lot!

I am the life of the party.

I feel comfortable around people.

I don't talk a lot.

I keep in the background.

Instructions (Part 1)

Your computer task will be to perform a set of menu selections as quickly and as accurately as possible.

The instructions below show how it's going to work. Please go through them to proceed to a practice task.

Great! Now for the multitasking bit

Some of the time, you will be asked to keep a set of symbols in memory while doing the menu selection task. As far as our minds are concerned, keeping a large number of items in our short term memory is almost the same as doing any other complex mental task.

The instructions below show how it's going to work. Go through them to proceed to a practice task.

Fantastic! Now for the real thing

Get started with the real thing as soon as you are ready!

Remember, your goal is to proceed through the task as quickly and as accurately as possible.

There will be a total of sections to complete. You will have a chance to take a break between sections.

out of tasks completed.

You have completed out of parts

Take a break, if you want to.

Fun fact

What makes mental arithmetic mentally taxing, is not all the adding and multiplying we have to do, but the number of things we have to keep in our mind at the same time to make it happen. When psychologists talk about cognitive load, they really mean the amount of stuff we have to keep in our short term memory. The capacity of human short term memory is the main factor that limits human problem solving abilities.

Fun fact

Psychologists say that the information we put in our short term memory is divided into "chunks". How is that for a technical term?

We cannot really change the number of chunks that our short term memory can store:( However, we can increase the size of the chunks that we can store! This is what learning is all about.

For example, for a child who is just beginning to read, each letter is a separate chunk. To read the word "bread," she needs to put each letter (or sound) as a separate chunk in her short term memory and eventually connect them into a word. For her, it is a very demanding task. For you, each word (or even phrase or a sentence) is a single chunk. You no longer think about individual letters. Instead, you can focus on the meaning of an entire sentence. Learning a new skill, be it reading, physics, or the grammar of a foreign language, is about helping our mind think in bigger and bigger chunks.

You can write them down in any order


Random question: How do you feel?

Select one or two emotions that best describe how you are feeling (optional).


Thank you for your participation!

Before we continue to the results, please answer the following two questions:

Did you encounter any technical difficulties or interruptions during this study?  

Did you cheat or in any way provide false information? If yes, how?  

Do you have any comments for the researcher? Questions, Suggestions, or Concerns?


Thank you!

Your code is .

Please enter it back into the form on Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Here are your results

Speed: On average, you took seconds to find and select an item. Other participants needed seconds on average.

More interestingly, however,

Memory: On average, you made mistake(s) when remembering memorized symbols. Other people made mistakes on average.

Attention on the clicking task: We also measured how much attention you paid to the clicking task (sorry, we cannot tell you how we did it right now because we do not want others to game the test). On average, other participants had the highest attention scores when they had to remember 2 symbols and lowest when they had to remember 6 symbols.

As you can see in the graph below, people do best on the clicking task when their mind is occupied just a little and they do less well when their minds are completely bored or very busy.
Graph showing attention score on the clicking task versus the number of symbols to memorize.

When computing your results, we excluded the first three clicks in each part (we assume you were just warming up). We also excluded any clicks where it took you longer than 7 seconds to respond (we assume you got distracted there).

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