Attention, in this day and age it’s the one currency nobody can buy. Companies want it, consumers are sparing with it, and my lord is it hard to grab. But how hard really? Of course yelling at someone gets their attention, but effective marketing and advertising has moved far beyond that. Perhaps this is because people are progressively growing less and less attentive? In my research I found dozens of articles related to humans developing shorter attention spans, this one from Time.com even goes as far to state we have shorter attention spans than goldfish, “…people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.” However when trying to find any scholarly sources or articles on the matter, it comes up blank. Even looking for that canadian study returns no results. Obviously either this is an ongoing study, or this perceived loss of attention is just something that the majority seem to accept.
Instead of leaving it to the professionals, I decided to create my own little test to check if we have that incredibly short attention of 8 seconds. Using four of my friends, we all booted up our favourite online game (we’re km’s apart mind you) and asked them all to jump in the same game. Now this game (Warframe) isn’t particularly difficult, in fact before even explaining the test to my friends it was mentioned that “it’s (warframe) an easy game to do without doing any actual thinking”. The test is simple, we all jump in the same mission, all doing the similar, menial tasks in game, while I type in random numbers in our group chat (we all have at least two screens, so we can see the game and chat at the same time) and the goal is to read out the numbers as I type them. If you lose attention to either the game or the numbers, you’re out. Of course being the competitive people we are, of course all of them scored much higher than eight seconds of attention. Whether this is due to the fact that the media device present is not unfamiliar, or perhaps because the numbers weren’t particularly hard, it’s difficult to know. In retrospect however, I can definitely remember them struggling to do small things in the game together while reading numbers out. Although again, that could just be a product of poor multitasking abilities.
When reading google’s article on “The New Multi-screen World” it was easy to understand that this attention deficit may just be a product of attempting to multitask on two devices at once, and thus it seems we are unable to keep our attention on one thing at a time. However I would also disagree with the article on one thing, I highly doubt that the most time spent on a “media device” is the television. Just 17 minutes compared to the TV’s 43 on average? I’m absolutely aware that it’s different for everyone, but from my perspective the smartphone and PC/Laptop should be significantly higher than the others. Of course that’s just my opinion, and perhaps it’s different per culture, due to the lack of time spent allocated to playing video games on those devices I would be confident in assuming that these stats are US based, and I think the consumption of media in Australia is vastly different to that of the US.
Image credit: Myself