I suspect what is going on here isn’t deliberate behavior.
Famed scientist Richard Feynman wrote of an experiment he once did where he tried to count off sixty seconds in his head to see how close he could come to an actual minute of time. He discovered he was very consistently hitting a particular “minute” of his personal time when he did this undistracted. However, he could not count his “minute” in his head while doing something intensely auditory, such as talking. Feynman guessed that counting was a mental activity that engaged one’s auditory centers, so speaking and mentally counting were impossible to do both at once.
This is the category I fall into: I simply cannot process vocal comprehension and reading comprehension simultaneously. I must do one or the other; it’s something about the way my brain is wired. I cannot write prose while listening to a song with lyrics unless I can completely tune out the song. It’s not that I can’t multitask: I can read a book or a propped-up newspaper while playing the piano, while comprehending everything I read and not missing a note.
I’m sure this frustrated my mother when I stayed there for a few months; she would insist upon talking to me during the evenings as I was reading the newspaper. Every time she would say something I would have to put it down and give her my complete attention or I wouldn’t even hear what she said. And yet she would wait until I was reading again before trying to talk to me.
Feynman’s experiment continued by testing his friends in his college dorm. He found one man who could talk and blather about nothing in particular and still continue to count in his head, and maintain his internal “one minute” timer. The friend explained that he didn’t hear the countdown in his head, he visualized it as a ticker tape of numbers going by. This was an exception to Feynman’s theory about counting being an auditory activity.
Of course, he was in a male college dorm, so I don’t remember reading if he ever tested any women. Women may be suited (more commonly than men) to multi-task speech at the same time as other activities and so, knowing themselves capable of cooking three saucepans at once, and reading a recipe, while talking on the phone and listening to the television, they decide that men are equally capable of this and talk at them when men are focusing on something else.
In short, I do not think this is ADD or anything unusual or defective. If someone has the book with the Feynman experiment, perhaps they can post it so the women of the Straight Dope can test its efficacy.