Tuesday, June 19, 2018

British attention spans reportedly range from 6 to 29 minutes

Last Thursday, June 14th, I humorously blogged about What if our attention span really is six hours (21,600 seconds) rather than the mythical 8 seconds? After that I searched at Google for some real statistics. I found a press release at SWNSdigital on December 28, 2017 titled Britain’s average attention span revealed. It came from the Skipton Building Society, but curiously wasn’t also posted at the press releases page on their web site. (It was tweeted about though). Two newspapers used it on that day: The Sun in an article titled Average Brit has an attention span of just 14 minutes, study finds and The Independent in another article similarly titled Average British attention span is 14 minutes, research finds. The press release achieved the objective of getting that organization’s name into newspapers at the end of the year.

The Skipton press release began by claiming:
“The average Brit has an average attention span of just 14 minutes, according to research.”

It listed attention spans for 20 different activities, which are shown above in a horizontal bar chart.(Click on it for a larger, clearer view). They range from a high of 29 minutes for a social situation with a friend, down to just 6 minutes for talking to someone either moaning or with a boring voice, or a story about someone you don’t know. But when I created that chart in Excel I found the SUM was 217, so the average (mean) really was 10.85 minutes rather than 14. Both the median and mode are 10, but none of these three averages hint at how wide the range is. However, the average of 10.85 minutes, or 651 seconds is  over 81 times larger than the mythical 8 second attention span.   

That press release is quite opaque - it omits details: what ages and locations were surveyed, when the survey was done, how many people were asked what questions, whether it was a random sample, and whether it was done over the phone or on the web.  

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