Friday, May 15, 2015
Do reporters have shorter attention spans than goldfish?
They probably do. Microsoft Canada recently posted a brief article about How does digital affect Canadian attention spans? It provided a link for downloading a detailed 52-page research report. Unfortunately it also mentioned that:
“The average human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, but by 2013 it was only 8 seconds (1 second shorter than a goldfish!).”
That was NOT something found by the Microsoft research - it was three attention span statistics (listed on page 6) quoted from a dubious web page at Statistic Brain, which I blogged about last December in a post titled Statistic Brain is just a statistical medicine show. I blogged about it again in April in another post titled What’s worse than being the boy who cried wolf? It’s being the girl who cried goldfish!
Page 9 of the Microsoft report introduced the research topics by describing how:
“This study breaks attention into three parts because we don’t think attention can be simply characterized as how long people can concentrate - different tasks, devices, and lifestyles require different sets of attention types.
3 types of attention:
Maintaining prolonged focus during repetitive activities
Maintaining response in the face of distracting or competing stimuli
Efficiently switching between tasks
Shifting attention between tasks demanding different cognitive skills”
Did reporters talk much about those distinctions? Of course not! The May 14, 2015 article at TIME by Kevin McSpadden was titled You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish and claimed:
“The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects (sic) of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.”
That day’s article at USA Today by Neal Colgrass was titled Our attention span now worse than goldfish’s, and similarly said:
“...the Canadian attention span has dropped from an average of 12 seconds in 2000 to the jittery low of eight seconds today. ”
An image showing reporter Sean Michael Thomas of Russia Today in Antarctica came from Wikimedia Commons.