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About the MTAT

Overview

The MTAT is an abstract computer-based test of multi-tasking ability that can be simply and quickly administered, and requires no domain knowledge to take. It is an Internet-based test that can be accessed at www.multitaskingtests.com using any Internet browser.

The MTAT can be completed in 20 minutes. After an individual takes the test, the test administrator can immediately obtain the scored results on the Internet, which are provided in text form for individual results, and in spreadsheet form for group reports.

Multiple psychometric studies have revealed, without exception, that the single metric that is provided in the reports is the most stable and valid measure of MTAT performance that has been investigated.

Normative data indicate that the MTAT produces a wide range of scores. While the MTAT was developed in psychometric studies using college students, validation studies have demonstrated that it produces distributions of comparable range for other populations such as emergency medicine physicians, nursing students, civilian aviation students, civilian emergency dispatchers, and operators of the Navy's Landing Craft Air Cushion.

The MTAT is based on Joslyn's and Hunt's (1998) Abstract Decision Making (ADM) task. A test taker who participated in both the ADM and the MTAT might detect only minor superficial differences in the two experiences. However, important changes were made to the MTAT to increase its reliability, validity, and utility based on the results of psychometric studies.

Purpose

The MTAT serves a scientific measurement purpose that can be practically used to address applied needs in multi-tasking environments. Broadly stated, the purpose of the test is to measure individual differences, within normal populations, in multi-tasking ability. In so doing, the test can be used to identify those individuals who are likely to perform well in environments or jobs that require high levels of multi-tasking ability.

Scope

The test is intended to discriminate differences in multi-tasking ability among normal populations of adults. Although a body of research has associated multi-tasking ability with dysexecutive syndrome and a variety of other neuropsychological disorders that involve impairment of executive control functions, the test is not intended as an instrument to diagnose or otherwise measure such disabilities.

The test is intended for English-speaking adult populations, and should not be used to discriminate differences among children. To date, there have been no studies of the MTAT using aged adult populations. Therefore, use of the MTAT for selection and placement purposes should be limited to working-age adults. However, the MTAT could be used for research purposes on older children and older adult populations. The MTAT is equally useful for male and female test takers. Multiple studies have failed to reveal any gender differences on the MTAT.

The test is intended to predict limited performance measures in limited work environments. Specifically, it is intended to predict measures of multi-tasking performance in multi-tasking environments. The MTAT is not intended to predict measures of job performance that are not assessments of multi-tasking performance. Further, the MTAT is not intended to predict performance in stressful, fast paced, nor time-limited environments that do not require multi-tasking (e.g., race car driving); however similar such environments may seem to multi-tasking jobs.

Test Description

The MTAT has the feel of a computer game. Test takers' basic task is to sort multiple geometric objects into one of four bins. The geometric objects vary in size, shape, and color and each bin will accept only certain types of objects. At the beginning of each test session, the object attributes that each bin will accept are described. For example, a bin might accept only small blue triangles. Or, a bin might accept only red objects of any size or shape.

The objects and their attributes are not displayed to the test taker in graphic form. The MTAT is completely text based. When an object is available for sorting, the MTAT presents a text message. The test taker may then ask the MTAT questions about the object concerning its shape, size, or color.

This limited description of the MTAT makes it sound deceptively easy and does not convey its multi-tasking feature. The MTAT places heavy demands on multi-tasking ability because new objects are made available for sorting every 15 seconds, on the average. Hence, test takers may be "working on" multiple objects at any particular point in time. Test takers also have multiple tasks to perform to classify any single object, such as querying its shape, color, or form, examining bin requirements, and ultimately assigning it to a bin. Finally, the MTAT frequently interrupts the test taker and forces him or her to briefly switch tasks, which is a feature common to all multi-tasking environments.

From a practical perspective, the MTAT has many attributes that make it a good candidate for a test of multi-tasking ability and prediction of performance in multi-tasking environments. First, it can be easily and quickly administered. Psychometric studies have shown that three five-minute sessions of the MTAT produces a highly reliable and valid score. Most test takers require 5 to 10 minutes to read the instructions. Hence, the MTAT takes between 20 and 25 minutes to complete. The MTAT also has the benefit of having been designed to predict multi-tasking in real-world environments without the trappings of specific topics or tasks idiosyncratic to particular jobs such as air traffic control, aviation, etc. Therefore, it requires little training, making it applicable for anyone who can read and use a computer.

Psychometric evaluation of the MTAT investigated multiple potential measures of performance for the test. That research revealed that one metric, average time to process a single object, was the most stable and valid measure. Therefore, all MTAT reports include this metric.