Web thinking Women
Every day women juggle their different ‘jobs’ and duties and manage to do several different things at the same time. Or so it seems. ‘Multi-tasking’ is our strength. It’s interesting that the BT ad on TV has Kris Marshall (from My Family)calling his mother while walking/cooking/etc. That’s usually the woman’s role.
Studies say that what we are actually doing is swapping between contexts. Some research suggests that this is not necessarily a good thing in that it we are not really concentrating properly on any one task. Linda Stone, a writer who worked at Apple Computer, coined the term ‘Continuous Partial Attention’ to describe this type of information processing.
“It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially.
Harold Paschler said that we can perform some tasks simultaneously without difficulty e.g. we can regulate sensory input while performing information retrieval, however in trying to perform more difficult tasks at the same time we lose effectiveness in processing these tasks.
But we women know we really are effective! Helen Fisher in her book The First Sex explained how women are more able to think contextually and can tolerate ambiguity better. She theorises that women are able to consider more variables, options and outcomes when decision making and finds that this is most obvious in an office environment. Women pick up on little nuances and non-verbal cues, object positions, body postures and so on and use this absorbed information to help them in their decision making.
Helen Fisher calls this ‘web-thinking’ where women have a broader perspective in their way of processing information that enables them to integrate lots of different facts, rapidly retrieve and selectively analyse these and plan the next step accordingly.
So next time a ‘step-thinking’ man challenges your ability to think clearly, remind him that you can take in a lot of information quickly, rapidly recall the bits that matter and use them effectively!
Harold Paschler – Dual-Task Interference in Simple Tasks: Data and Theory Psychological Bulletin 1994 Vol. 116 No 2 220-244
Helen Fisher – The Natural Talents of Women and How They Are Changing the World