Attention Span Shrinkage


Recent studies all agree: The average attention span is shrinking and it’s getting harder and harder to capture and keep anyone’s attention.

So it’s more important than ever that your website, email, newsletter, info-graphics or presentation must attract attention and be engaging. You need to make a positive impression – and do it fast! Communicate a compelling message in the first 8 seconds, or you risk losing your audience.

If people are still paying attention after the first 8 seconds, you have a total of about 5 minutes until their attention span is completely exhausted. According to a Fortune article, the average adult attention span has plummeted from 12 minutes a decade ago to less than 5 minutes.

Why is our attention span getting shorter?

Microsoft’s theory is that these changes are the result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time. In other words, our shorter attention spans may be a direct result of our adapting to an increasingly mobile Internet. So, if you’re in the habit of watching shorter and shorter videos, reading 140 or so characters on Twitter and you only skim first sentence or two of everything else, you may be altering how your brain functions.

Every time we interrupt what we’re doing and start a new task, our brain has to reorient itself. These interruptions can severely impact productivity. The Internet seems to be designed to distract us, we spend more and more time online, and as result, we’re more distracted than ever. We jump back and forth from social media to video to news articles and back again. Does this take a toll on our concentration and comprehension?  Research says the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Multi-tasking Doesn’t Help

Does multitasking help or hurt our attention span? Researchers tested whether heavy multi-taskers are better at filtering out distractions than light multi-taskers. They found heavy multi-taskers actually had less ability to ignore distractions and focus on important information. Light media multi-taskers were better able to focus their attention on task goals when they faced the same distractions.

It’s not clear if being a heavy media multi-tasker increases your susceptibility to distraction, or if people who are more easily distracted are more likely to become heavy media multi-taskers.

How is Your Attention Span?

WE’re glad you made it this far, but how well can you focus without getting distracted? Take this Psychology Today test to find out.