The Genetics of Multitasking

Latest Posts

Table of Contents

The Genetics of Multitasking

Date of Content: April 17, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


What is Multitasking?

Multitasking refers to the human ability to engage in and switch between multiple tasks or actions concurrently. This includes dual-tasking, where two tasks are performed simultaneously, and more complex forms of multitasking involving three or more tasks.

Research on the human ability to perform multitasking has examined the underlying cognitive mechanisms, including structural accounts of processing bottlenecks, cognitive flexibility in task switching, and the role of practice and experience in developing multitasking skills.

Experimental paradigms have also been developed to assess multitasking in more realistic settings, beyond simple dual-task scenarios. This allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges and tradeoffs involved in human multitasking behaviors.


Common Misconceptions About Multitasking

In today’s fast-paced world, multitasking is often seen as a necessary skill for keeping up with the demands of modern life. However, common misconceptions about multitasking, listed below,  may be hindering rather than helping productivity and performance.

  • Multitasking Boosts Productivity: Contrary to popular belief, multitasking often leads to decreased performance compared to focusing on one task at a time. Many individuals overestimate their ability to multitask effectively.
  • Gender Disparity in Multitasking: Despite the stereotype that women excel at multitasking, research suggests otherwise. Male college students tend to have higher self-perceptions of their multitasking abilities, often agreeing with misconceptions about memory and attention more than their female counterparts.
  • No Negative Effects: Multitasking, especially when involving digital distractions, can impair memory and learning. Research indicates detrimental impacts on cognitive performance associated with multitasking.
  • Necessity of Multitasking: While common in modern life, multitasking is often counterproductive. Developing strategies to minimize multitasking and focus attention may yield better results.

Dispelling these misconceptions can lead to improved study habits and productivity.

How Genetics May Influence Multitasking


 The Val158Met polymorphism (SNP rs4680)  in the COMT gene, has been extensively studied for its association with cognitive control functions. The valine (Val) to methionine (Met) substitution (Val158Met)influences the activity of the catechol-O-methyltransferase enzyme (COMT), which in turn affects dopamine (DA) levels in the prefrontal cortex (PFC).

A 2008 study provided early insights into how the COMT Val158Met polymorphism is associated with brain activation during tasks measuring cognitive stability and plasticity. The study found differential patterns of brain activation based on an individual’s genotype, suggesting that task characteristics may mediate the effects of the COMT gene on multitasking behavior. This implies that the COMT genotype can affect specific cognitive processes involved in multitasking.

Further research suggested that lower prefrontal cortex dopamine levels characterize individuals with the Val158 allele  (SNP rs4680-G) and may exhibit greater cognitive flexibility compared to the Met158 allele (rs4680-A) carriers. This suggests that low prefrontal dopamine levels promote cognitive flexibility, potentially influencing multitasking behavior.

Another research study from 2012 further supports the role of the COMT gene in attentional processes and executive control. The Met158 allele was found to be associated with lower COMT enzyme activity and enhanced PFC dopamine signaling which can lead to difficulties in tasks requiring cognitive and behavioral flexibility. 

All these studies indicate that individuals with certain unfavorable COMT genotypes may struggle with multitasking, particularly in situations where flexibility is required.

Another GWAS-based genetic variant associated with multitasking is SNP rs7165213, which is located in a long non-coding RNA, LINC02253. While the function of this transcript is not known, interestingly, it is highly expressed in the heart and brain. Research suggested that rs7165213 could regulate the expression of another proximal gene with an unknown function (FAM169B) in the frontal cortex.

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Multitasking

The multifaceted nature of factors influencing multitasking encompasses demographic, personality, motivational,  school course-specific, and task-related dimensions. Understanding these factors is crucial for developing effective interventions to manage multitasking behavior.

  • Task characteristics: The interaction between multitasking and task characteristics, such as the task’s level of difficulty and cognitive load, can impact learning outcomes in virtual reality environments.

How to Multitask Effectively

Scientists say that doing more than one task at the same time is cognitively impossible; it’s just that the brain shifts its focus so fast, that you feel like you’re multitasking.

You may train yourself to effectively multitask especially at work or at school, by doing the following:

  • Work on related tasks together. If you need to multitask, then minimize the switching cost by bundling related tasks together. The more similar they are, the easier it will be for you to shift fluidly between them
  • Keep your to-do list visible. If you work in a chaotic office, create systems to ensure that important tasks or long-term projects don’t get neglected or forgotten. To stay on top of your work, remind yourself what really needs to get done. Post your to-do list in a prominent spot and rank it by priority. Color code or bold the most important tasks, and make sure you set aside enough time to address them.
  • Use downtime to review new information. One of the dangers of multitasking is that it gets in the way of your memory. If you have to skim an important document during a busy workday, take time to review it later that day. Reread it while you walk between meetings or commute home, and explain it back to yourself to make sure you understand it, and it will stick to your memory.

About the LifeDNA Personality & Cognition Report

Discover the intricacies of your personality and cognitive abilities with the LifeDNA Personality & Cognition Report. Gain insights into your unique traits and cognitive strengths, including your capacity for multitasking.

Armed with this knowledge, you can optimize your productivity and make informed decisions about your personal and professional life. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to uncover your true self and unleash your full potential! Get your report today!


  • Humans can engage in and switch between multiple tasks concurrently. Researchers investigate cognitive mechanisms and develop experimental paradigms to better understand multitasking challenges.
  • Multitasking often leads to decreased performance, contrary to common beliefs.
  •  The Val158Met polymorphism in the COMT gene influences cognitive flexibility and dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex, affecting multitasking abilities. Different genotypes have been shown to have varying impacts on cognitive control.
  • Demographic, personality, cognitive, and task-related factors influence multitasking behavior. Gender, personality traits, cognitive beliefs, and task characteristics all play significant roles.
  • Effective multitasking tips include bundling related tasks, maintaining visible to-do lists, and utilizing downtime for reviewing information to enhance memory retention. Effective organization and memory strategies are crucial for optimizing multitasking performance.



Customer Reviews

Christopher Devlin
Christopher Devlin
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
I am so impressed with this service. I have even discussed these recommendations with my health care providers and they are all impressed too! I can’t compare it with other services as I have only tried this but I recommend. Also I think I pulled my genetics in from ancestry too which was super convenient.
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
Great source of information I was looking for a platform to make use of my existing raw data from Ancestry. I’m glad I found LifeDNA. I originally took a DNA test to learn about my roots and it’s great to know that my DNA could also play a big role in my health, diet, and even my skin. Overall, all the reports are incredible.
Shiraz Dole
Shiraz Dole
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
It is crazy how I felt that I had a strong understanding of my bodies needs, but after having my DNA analyzed by the LifeDNA team, I realized that there was so much I still did not know.
Doc Sheila Lim
Doc Sheila Lim
LifeDNA Customer
Read More
I got some pretty useful insight that helped me with my diet.

*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents on our website and our reports are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose any medical condition, replace the advice of a healthcare professional, or provide any medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results. The testimonials featured may have used more than one LifeDNA or LifeDNA vendors’ product or reports.