“The mission of the press is to spread culture while destroying the attention span.”
– Karl Kraus
Did you know that the average human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish? According to a study conducted by Microsoft Canada, the average human being had an attention span of eight seconds in 2013, while they found that the average goldfish had an attention span of nine seconds. In 2000, humans had an attention span of 12 seconds, which means that our numbers have dwindled by four seconds. It’s hard to believe that we have changed so much, but we have — all thanks to technology.
In fact, we are now a nation of multi-screeners. As explained in a study conducted by Google, this means that much of our time is spent in front of screens. Most people own a computer, a smartphone, a tablet and a television — and many of us use all of them at the same time. These devices have become so flexible and dynamic that it’s easier than ever to utilise them all at once. Evolving technology has made life simpler, but it has also contributed to shorter attention spans.
According to the above Microsoft Canada study, there are three types of attention spans:
- Sustained (prolonged focus)
Maintaining prolonged focus during repetitive activities.
- Selective (avoiding distraction)
Maintaining response in the face of distracting or competing stimuli.
- Alternating (efficiently switching between tasks)
Shifting attention between tasks demanding different cognitive skills.
I believe that technology is hindering most people’s attention spans. Everything is so accessible and advanced that it’s hard not to be distracted by it. Several years ago, it wasn’t as easy to engage in more than one aspect of technology at a time. We would have to sit on the family computer typing up our assignments, and we wouldn’t get distracted by anything else. We would only be able to watch television on the television screen, and talk to our friends on the home telephone. Now, we can do assignments on our laptops while streaming television shows online, and texting people on our mobile devices that also have access to a number of social media platforms. Our minds are moving so rapidly between different tasks that they’re learning that they shouldn’t have to concentrate on one thing for more than eight seconds. Technology may be evolving, but our attention spans are not.
To end on a lighter note — below is a video that sums me up perfectly.
BuzzFeedYellow YouTube Channel 2014, What It’s Like to Have A Short Attention Span, online video, viewed 3 October 2015,
Google document, ‘The new multi-screen world: understanding cross-platform consumer behaviour’, viewed 3 October 2015,
Microsoft Canada, ‘Attention spans’, research report 2015, viewed 3 October 2015,
Sana, F, Weston, T & Wiseheart, M 2014, ‘Laptops hinder classroom learning for both users and nearby peers’, Yorku website, viewed 3 October 2015,
SearchQuotes, ‘Attention span quotes’, SearchQuotes website, viewed 3 October 2015,
Strauss, V 2013, ‘How distracting are laptops in class?’, Washington Post website, viewed 3 October 2015,