Alternative MethodsConventional Methods


March 29

Shortening Attention Span is A Myth, Scientists Say

Kristy Perkins
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 3 min.

You probably won’t get to the end of this article. Everyone knows our attention spans are getting shorter. It’s just obvious. Or is it?

In the always-connected world of social media, smartphones and hyperlinks in the middle of everything you read, it can feel that much harder to stay focused.

And there are statistics too. They say that the average attention span is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now. That is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

You might have seen those stats in Time magazine, the Telegraph, the Guardian, USA Today, the New York Times or the National Post. Maybe you heard a Harvard academic citing them on US radio. Or perhaps you read the management book Brief.

But if you pay a bit more attention to where the statistics come from, the picture is much less clear.

All those references lead back to a 2015 report by the Consumer Insights team of Microsoft Canada, who surveyed 2,000 Canadians and also studied the brain activity of 112 people as they carried out various tasks.

However, the figure that everyone picked up on — about our shrinking attention spans — did not actually come from Microsoft’s research. It appears in the report, but with a citation for another source called Statistic Brain.

Short attention span

A quick Google and it is easy to find where they got it from. The Statistic Brain website looks pretty trustworthy too. It even says they “love numbers, their purity, and what they represent” — just the kind of people with whom we, at More or Less, can get along.

As if to prove it, the number-lovers at Statistic Brain source all their figures. But the sources are infuriatingly vague.

And when I contact the listed sources - the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the US National Library of Medicine, and the Associated Press — neither can find any record of research that backs up the stats.

My attempts to contact Statistic Brain came to nothing too.

I have spoken to various people who dedicate their working lives to studying human attention and they have no idea where the numbers come from either.

‘Task Depndent’

In fact, they think the idea that attention spans are getting shorter is plain wrong.

“I don’t think that’s true at all,” says Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University.

“Simply because I don’t think that that’s something that psychologists or people interested in attention would try and measure and quantify in that way.”

Dr Briggs has done extensive research on how dual tasking affects attention spans - such as when drivers use their phones

She studies attention in drivers and witnesses to crime and says the idea of an “average attention span” is pretty meaningless. “It’s very much task-dependent. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.”

There are some studies out there that look at specific tasks, like listening to a lecture.

But the idea that there’s a typical length of time for which people can pay attention to even that one task has also been debunked.

“How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation,” explains Dr Briggs.

“We’ve got a wealth of information in our heads about what normally happens in given situations, what we can expect. And those expectations and our experience directly mould what we see and how we process information in any given time.”

Some also suggest that evidence of ever-shorter shot lengths in films shows attention spans are dwindling. But the academic behind that research says all it shows is that film-makers have got better at trying to grab our attention.

‘An interesting irony’

There’s something else fishy about those attention span statistics too.

It turns out that there is no evidence that goldfish — or fish in general — have particularly short attention spans or memories, despite what popular culture suggests.

I spoke to Prof Felicity Huntingford, who has spent almost half a century studying fish behaviour and just delivered a series of public lectures under the title, How Smart Are Fish?

“Goldfish can perform all the kinds of learning that have been described for mammals and birds,” she says.

“And they’ve become a model system for studying the process of learning and the process of memory formation, exactly because they have a memory and because they learn.”

She says there have been literally hundreds of scientific papers over the decades on goldfish learning and memory. I found a reference to a study on fish memory as early as 1908.

“That a species that’s used by neuro-psychologists and scientists as a model for studying memory formation should be the very species that has this reputation — I think that’s an interesting irony,” she says.

So goldfish don’t have short attention spans or memories. There is no evidence human attentions spans are shrinking.

via BBC

Comments

Leave your questions here

To write a comment you must
or
Services
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter
Sort
 
All categories
Personal Development Coaching
$120 USD
Spiritual Life Coach Session-Personalized Session

Personalized Sessions

Because Everyone Is Unique

Sessions are based on the area of focus requested by the client.

Each session is a LIVE Session Goals will…

Deborah Lucero
United States of America flag icon
Chakra Balancing
$60 USD
Soul To Soul Reading Session

Energetic Reading

Complete Chakra System Reading to identify energy blocks. Techniques are provided to restore balance.

What Is An Energetic Reading?

Debo…

Deborah Lucero
United States of America flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$10 USD
Come Home to Yourself HEALING/Life- Coaching Session

When you aren’t sure which way to turn or who to turn to for help in making decisions, I will help you come home to yourself and forge a plan to manifest your …

Dr. Michele S. Zirkle
United States of America flag icon
Channeling
$50 USD
Healing guidance session

You prepare your questions and I channel the root cause of the issue, as easy as that!

Every session looks different. We dive deep into the root and heal it f…

Nanna
5
Sweden flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$20 USD
Compassionate energy healing

For those times when we feel we need the energetic space to let our whole being restore itself. The healing is meant to give you a sense of safety and feel lik…

Nanna
Sweden flag icon
Distance Healing
$10 USD
Reiki and Energy Healing (Distant)

Reiki and energy healing is done by distance while a client is resting and the practitioner sends healing energy to the client. Clients have found that the en…

Beverly Lynn
Canada flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$80 USD
Soul Healing and Spiritual Advice

If you need a change in your life, if you are stuck and really want to move forward, if you see unwanted repeated patterns of life events or people’s behaviour…

Yavenirie - Spiritual Witchery Practice and…
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$10 USD
Initial consultation for Spiritual Advice or Soul Healing Journey

You can book an initial spiritual consultation with me to touch base on your struggles and ways we can work together. The session will be online for around 15 …

Yavenirie - Spiritual Witchery Practice and…
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$10 USD
Light the Path to Your Desired Life

If you want find what is that in life that makes you happy and fulfilled you need to heal all levels of your existence- Body, Mind, and Spirit. We are all ener…

Change Naturopathy
New Zealand flag icon
Emotional Freedom Technique
$10 USD
The Power Of Emotional Healing - EFT Program

“The Power of Emotional Healing” is energy psychology education in the Emotional Freedom Technique with the perfect balance of information, instructions, video…

Dawn Cady
Australia flag icon
Positive Psychology
$10 USD
Initial Phone/Video Consult

Explore the fit and hear how I would address your therapeutic goal

Alex Guthrie, LMFT
United States of America flag icon
Art Therapy
$50 USD
Artist Teacher Workshop Or Tutoring

“Life Force” guiding our history, our body and spirits. Self portrait art, life drawing from the live model, gesture, and plein air painting. And extended cont…

Bryan Prillwitz
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$100 USD
Timeline Reading

EGYPTIAN TAROT READINGS using unique methods developed by Nelise Carbonare, a Brazilian healer with more than 40 years of experience in tarot consultations, as…

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$120 USD
THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID

THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID focuses on a specific relationship: One side for the consultant and one for their partner. (the partner does not need to be present …

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
Pick one card

Many questions can be answer with just one Arcane.

Do you want to try?

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$50 USD
Spiritual Coaching - Removing Energy Blocks - Expansion

> “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” Jung

Spiritual coaching is about moving you into a profound state of empowerment and involution m…

Kimla Rose (Kim Desrosiers)
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Life Purpose and Soul Wisdom

What is your deeper truth, your deeper knowing, your MOJO, your deepest desires, those feelings that you can’t explain but that are so pure and so clear…or may…

Anna Beale
United States of America flag icon
Wellness Coaching
$10 USD
Your Missing Manual for Health & Life!

Are you constantly reading books, blogs and listening to podcasts trying to figure out what to do to be healthy?

With so much conflicting information out ther…

Pamela Malo
United States of America flag icon
Nutritional Therapy
$150 USD
Nutritional Therapy Consultation

Hi my name is Aria and I am the founder of Heal with Nutrition. I am a registered Nutritional Therapist and a Naturopath who has a passion on Nutrition and Hea…

Aria Alexandrou
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
THOTH AND HERMETIC DECKS READING

With a deep knowledge of hermeticism and being introduced to the kabbalah tradition of the emanation process from the tree of life, I provide a deep insight co…

James Marchiori
Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$55 USD
The Bridge to Your Desired Life

This is were you get real help with your struggles and life challenges. As life gets harder to cope with, we tend to look for external ways to get through. And…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Naturopathy
$10 USD
Intake Consult

short introduction consult to Integrative Medicine

Femke Neervoort
Netherlands flag icon
Career Coaching
$300 USD
Reset Coaching and Mentoring Programme

12 weeks of bi-weekly 90 minutes 1:1 Coaching and Mentoring. Total cost USD1800 (6x90minutes career coaching and mentoring session)

Are you returning to work …

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Reiki
$55 USD
Guidance, Inspiration & Healing

This type of session is a favorite among many of my clients, as it is often times one of the smoothest way to address a challenge to reach a happier and health…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon