Is Technology Making Human Attention Spans Shorter


The year 2015 saw Time magazine declare that the average person now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Using a study by Microsoft Canada, Time magazine stated that “you now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.”

The study shows that the average human attention span has dropped to 8 seconds, a decrease of over 7 seconds from the previous study. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized that “the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.” Congrats if you’ve made it this far! That’s quite a brain!

After considerable effort, the BBC technicians realized that Microsoft’s study was using information from another source to determine the average human attention span. Later on, after much digging, they were unable to find any research backing the “8 seconds” claim. We likely pay attention better than goldfish.

Brains are awesome, but they’re not perfect

Scientists and psychologists are still trying to understand why our minds work the way they do, but there are a lot of signs that show we’re inherently curious and quickly distracted. As far as we know, what our minds do while multitasking and how they pay attention are:

Multitasking or subtle switching of tasks taken on by the American Psychological Association has been shown to negatively impact productivity.

Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University argue that wandering minds are unhappy ones, and their research demonstrates this.

Published by the MIT Press, Adam Gazzaley, and Larry D. Rosen’s award-winning work, The Distracted Mind is a powerful book that will open your eyes.

These two authors – a cognitive neuroscientist and a psychologist – provide excellent explanations of why our brains weren’t built to multitask. The human brain, they contend, is limited in our ability to pay attention, and we aren’t multitaskers, but rather adept at switching rapidly between tasks.

Is tech the one we should blame?

The technological advancements that lead to dwindling attention spans are easy to blame. At first, we used to blame cellular phones and the internet boom, but then it was social media that threatened our brains.

Tom Bailey, a writer at Essay Writing Service Uk explains an extract from The Distracted Mind, “Human brains are considered master navigators of the river of information flowing all around us constantly. Nevertheless, achieving seemingly simple goals can often seem quite difficult.

We are distracted by irrelevant information and interrupted by multiple objectives at the same time, leading to interference. Many of you are now looking accusatorily at your mobile phones. It is crucial, however, that we realize that our sensitivity to electromagnetic interference does not exist because of technology. Our brain is intrinsically vulnerable to interference.”

Or, put another way, we were built to survive in the wild. While we have evolved as far as knowledge, culture, civilization, and the arts go, we haven’t evolved as far as our bodies and minds go. The human brain is constantly looking for information, whether it’s relevant, irrelevant, or something else. Our attention spans aren’t that long, but we can work at extending our focus.

Vanessa Evans, an expert at Essay Writing Services Uk says, “Technology facilitates progress. Technology is relevant when it is used for the right purposes. The way we use it can impact our productivity.”

We are bombarded with distractions on the internet (memes your new crush sent you, clickbait articles, amusing Reddit threads, Minecraft videos on YouTube, social media stories, etc.), but it also offers tools to cut through the clutter. Here are 3 killer tools to stop distractions from getting in the way:

  1. Pocket- Putting articles in Pocket lets you read them later. We know, it’s old news, but it works on everything. You can save an article to Pocket if you find one halfway through a task. Plus, it’s offline!
  2. Freedom- You can block out distracting sites and apps with Freedom so you can focus. Over 500,000 people use it to be productive on Macs, PCs, iPhones, and iPads.
  3. Calm- Calm has been listed in both Apple’s Best of the Year and Google Play’s Editors’ Choice collections for its ability to help you manage stress and anxiety through meditation. Besides sleeping well, it improves your focus, making you more productive.

The Bottom Line

The list is not exhaustive, however, as many other apps and services can assist you in blocking out the world whenever necessary. Also, if you’re always checking your phone or computer for emails, Instagram likes, or Bitcoin value, there is an article about low-tech activities published by Fast Company that helps you increase your focus and stop wandering thoughts. Let’s walk through 8 quick tips for becoming more focused.

Make sure you give these tools a shot to “increase” your attention spans. Plus, your productivity will skyrocket. Happy working!

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