About the MTAT
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.
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.
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.
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