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A significance level of 2.5% was used for this test. This is due to the fact that this study uses human beings and therefore there has to be an allowance for those outside the statistical norm. A significance level of 1%, for example, would be too strict whereas a significance level of 10% for example, would be too leniant as the results could be put down to chance. The hypothesis used in this study is directional and thus a one tailed test was used. There were 13 participants in each group and therefore N=13. From this information, the critical value can be found (See Appendix 3 Figure 1.6)

As can be seen in the Appendix 3 Figure 1.5, the Critical Value when p?0.025 is 45 and the Observed Value is 63.5 (See Appendix 3 Figure 1.3 – 1.7) For the Alternative Hypothesis to be accepted, the Observed Value must be less than the Critical Value, however, as can be seen above, the Observed Value (63.5) is greater than the Critical Value (45) and therefore, the Alternative Hypothesis must be rejected and the Null Hypothesis must be accepted: “There will not be a significant difference between the time taken to complete the Stroop test by female participants and the time taken to complete the Stroop test by male participants.”

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Discussion Explanation of Findings

Although the study shows that the female participants performed slightly better than the male participants (with average times of 25.3 and 27.55 seconds respectively), the Mann-Whitney test showed that this difference in results was not significant. Because of this, the null hypothesis; “There will not be a significant difference between the time taken to complete the Stroop test by female participants and the time taken to complete the Stroop test by male participants” was accepted.

However, despite the fact that women generally did better than men in this study, it was in fact a man who completed the Stroop Test fastest with a time of 21 seconds. This could be attributed to a possible interest in art which would have meant that the participant would have been more used to focussing on colour than on words and thus performed better in the Stroop test. Overall though, the female participants were, on average, 2.25 seconds quicker than the men. This means that, with a larger number of participants, the difference in results may have been significant.

Relationship to Background Research

Meyer (2003) came to the conclusion that the two sexes are typically equal in their ability to multitask. This is the same conclusion as was reached at the end of this study. The similarity in conclusions could be due to the similar demands made from the world at the time of the two studies; both studies were conducted recently, in a time when education offers the same opportunities for males as it does for females, and when both sexes are encouraged to strive for the best that they can do. This means that both sexes should be able to use the left and the right sides of their brains in conjunction with each other and thus be able to multitask to cope with the stresses that the current environment puts on them.

The research of Dr. M. Just (2001) also came to the same conclusion as this study when he looked at brain scans of 18 to 32 year olds who were completing two tasks at the same time. This may be due to the similarity in age of the participants in the two studies; both studies incorporated participants who would be pushing to be equal in educational attainment due to their age, and so they would have had to develop their brains to equal levels in order to compete for jobs and promotions. This means that any advantage held by the female participants from being biologically more adept at multitasking and diverting their attention would have been reduced by the education levels of the men and so the two sexes came out all but equal in their times for the Stroop Test.

However, the research of Halpern (2000)3 disagrees with this study. He concluded that women would be able to synthesise the two halves of their brain better than men, making them more able to multitask. There is nonetheless, a reason for this difference. This study, as well as that of Gur et al. (1999)4 looks only at the biological theory for the ability to multitask, whereas Meyer (2003), Just (2001) and this study, looked at the actual ability of participants to multitask, thus taking into account the demands of the environment. This means that Haplern (2000) and Gur et al. (1999) came to the conclusion that women were better at multitasking (and thus diverting their attention) than men, yet when the environmental factors were taken into account, it is seen that women and men are all but equal in their ability to divert their attention.

Limitations and Modifications

There were multiple limitations that affected the results of this study, the most important being the number of methods used. This study only made use of one method to come to its conclusion on the ability of males and females to divert attention. This is a limitation because there are many different situations where people may have to divert their attention, and these situations all use different combinations of senses and thought processes.

The Stroop Test only tested the ability to divert attention from the semantics of a word to the colour of the word and came to the conclusion that the two sexes were equally able to complete this test. However, other combinations of senses and thought processes may produce different results and so these need to considered equally. One way to deal with this is to use multiple methods, for example, asking the participants to listen to two conversations at the same time and reconstruct them or asking the participants to read a text whilst copying down a dictation.

Another important limitation was the range of subjects that participants were studying. There was not a large range of subjects as the participants all came from one school and as the were selected from the library it was unlikely that many participants were studying art or design and technology, therefore meaning that most of the participants naturally focussed on the semantics of the words given rather than the colour. This could be dealt with by ensuring that the participants were selected from a range of subjects so as to remove the bias towards language based participants.

Another limitation would be that the research was too casual as the participants knew the researcher. This meant that the participants would treat the study with less respect and therefore, the results would be less valid. One way to solve this issue is to use an independent researcher that is not known by the participants so as to acquire more valid results. The number of people used in the study is also a limitation. This is a problem because it means that the results are not reliable and so cannot be generalised to the rest of society. This can be dealt with by using a larger number of participants and thus acquiring more reliable results.

Implications and suggestions for future research

The real life implications of this study are that men and women can be set equal workloads. This is because both sexes are equally able to divert their attention and so should be able to complete the same amount of work per day. Another real life implication is that although women are biologically suited to multitasking eg. Cooking and holding a conversation, this can be changed and people are able to develop both sides of their brains and so the education system could focus more on this to help men close the gap even more. Further research however could be conducted to further clarify these results. A study into how age affects the ability to divert attention would be beneficial as it would clarify whether the equality between men and women in their ability to multitask is restricted to those aged 16-18 or whether it varies depending upon the age of the participants.

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