Do you accept my challenge?
I’m writing this post with 6 different tabs open on my browser. 2 of these are for my PR assignment, and the other 4 are blogs by other BCM240 students that I have been flicking through- I only managed to read 1 full post without flicking tabs! Why is this? Sadly, the human attention span has decreased over the past decade to a mere 8 seconds. Even a goldfish has a longer attention span! When using my laptop, sometimes I struggle to finish a task without at least 1 interruption. Medical Daily reports that it takes an average time of 25 minutes to return to the original task after interruption. Consequently, it takes much longer to complete a given task.
Microsoft Corporation used quantitative research methods to conduct a study among Canadians, revealing that young people presented “addiction-like behaviours” regarding their devices, and tend to check their phones every 30 minutes or less. This seems quite accurate. Personally, if I don’t have my phone in my pocket or bag, I feel lost- as do 59% of the Canadian population according to Microsoft’s infographic below. If I can’t check my messages, I get finicky. I notice similar behaviours in others when we dine out.
However, last week during dinner with some friends, we decided to play a game. I can’t remember who suggested the idea, but someone asked us all to put our phones face down in the middle of the table on top of each other. We agreed that the first person to touch their phone would pay for everyone’s dessert (since Grill’d is split payments anyway!). It was tough to refrain from touching my phone in the hour we were seated- especially when I wanted to show my friends a hilarious selfie of my sister! But we all managed. Conversation flowed brilliantly, and I found myself able to really listen to what was being said.
Is having a short attention span such a bad thing? Microsoft’s data suggests that our ability to multitask has improved remarkably. We are able to divide our attention between different devices and different people simultaneously. Some are also training themselves to process information more efficiently using multiple short bursts of high attention- a method that could potentially be the learning process of the future. Microsoft’s findings also indicate that multi-tasking- specifically multi-screening can improve our emotional connection, encoding to memory and ability to switch tasks effectively. As technology continues to evolve, will our attention span decrease further or improve?
If you are disappointed by Microsoft’s findings and desire to prove their data wrong, here are 3 simple activities that Medical Daily believe will assist you in doing so:
- Drink more water
- Avoid electronic devices
Tweet me and let me know how you go!
Did you complete my challenge? I sure failed. I should probably give those tips a go, as I ended up opening Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Buzzfeed while writing this post!
Borreli, L 2015, ‘ Human Attention Span Shortens to 8 Seconds Due To Digital Technology: 3 Ways To Stay Focused’, Medical Daily, 14th May 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,
Indo Asian News Service 2015, ‘Microsoft Study Finds Human Attention Span Has Dropped to Just 8 Seconds’, Gadgets 360, 18th May 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,
Microsoft Canada 2015, ‘Attention Spans: Consumer Insights’, Microsoft, 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,
Microsoft Canada 2015, ‘Attention Spans’ [infographic], Microsoft, 2015, viewed 27th September 2015,