According to a study conducted by Microsoft, people now have shorter attention spans than goldfish due to the popularity of portable computer devices and smartphones.
The survey was conducted on 2,000 Canadians who played online games. The study concluded that due to a culture of being “always connected” people are much more skilled at multitasking, but the downside is that attention spans have fallen from an average of 12 seconds to just 8 seconds in the last decade.
With a goldfish holding a nine-second attention span, humans have fallen behind goldfish in the ability to pay attention.
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“Canadians with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed,” reads the study.
“We know that consumers’ lives are increasingly digital whether at home or at work, or anywhere in between,” said Alyson Gausby, consumer insights lead with Microsoft Canada.
“We see now that news is reduced to 140 characters, some conversations are condensed to emojis and we wanted to understand how this affecting the way that Canadians see and interact with the world,” she said. “It’s our new ‘newsfeed reality,’ as I like to put it.”
Among the most concerning findings is our declining ability to sustain our focus during repetitive activities: 44 per cent of respondents said they had to concentrate really hard to stay focused on tasks, while 37 per cent said they were unable to make the best use of their time, forcing them to work late evenings and/or weekends.
The study further found evidence to suggest that people are increasingly displaying “addiction-like behaviours” when it comes to their devices:
• 77 per cent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 reported they reach for their phone or mobile device when they feel bored;
• 52 per cent check their phone every 30 minutes or less; and
• 79 per cent reported using their portable devices while watching TV.
“When we first invented the car, it was so novel. The thought of having an entertainment device in the car was ridiculous because the car itself was the entertainment,” he said.
“After a while, travelling for eight hours at a time, you’d had enough of it. The brain is bored. You put radios in the car and video displays. Why? Because after the first 10 minutes of the drive, I’ve had enough already. I understand this.
“Digital technologies dovetail seamlessly into the information processing abilities of our brain.”
Microsoft’s study is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.