In a recent study that confirms pretty much what we’ve all known for a while now, Microsoft has revealed that yes, technology is affecting our attention span. Back in the year 2000, the average human’s attention span was 12 seconds but in 2013 it had decreased to 8 seconds (apparently just 1 second shorter than a goldfish!). While this will undoubtedly trigger an increase in alarmist advice from parents, teachers and media, it’s important to note that this decrease isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is in part due to an on average increase in our overall ability to multitask and absorb information at a faster rate.
The study claims that out of all the Canadians who took part in the study, two thirds now used a second screen device while watching TV and that this has actually led to an improvement in memory encoding, creating emotional connections and the ability to effectively switch tasks. The study also found that these short bursts of attention were training participants to process information more effectively and while two thirds used social media for news, 57% still preferred long-form content when it came to getting the content that mattered to them.
So while we may be spending less time focused on one specific thing, we are now in fact able to do more things at once more often and with greater efficiency while still being able to focus when the need arises.
What do you think? Is the ability to focus on one thing for an extended amount of time more important than working on multiple things at once? Have you noticed a decline in your ability to focus for long periods on a single topic? Perhaps ironically, I find focusing on one thing to be rather unproductive with the possibility of social media offering me new information on a constant basis.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.