Human attention span lags behind that of goldfish

A Microsoft study has revealed that the attention span of humans has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds, mostly due to smartphones.

Smartphones have left humans with such a short attention span that even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer, researchers said.

At the new low, attention spans are now one second shorter than those of the average goldfish, the medical study conducted on behalf of Microsoft has found.

The research was conducted on 2,000 people in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using EEG scans.

However, the study also found that the ability of humans to multitask has improved.

“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,” the authors say.

“While digital lifestyles decrease sustained attention overall, it’s only true in the long term. Early adopters and heavy social media users front-load their attention and have more intermittent bursts of high attention. They’re better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.”

The researchers noted that there are three types of human attention: sustained (prolonged focus), selective (maintaining focus despite distractions) and alternating (shifting between tasks or stimuli).

Researchers also found that users who tend to use multiple screens, such as using their phone while watching TV on another screen, tend to have difficulty with filtering information that is coming at them on any of their devices.

They suggested that overall our brains are adapting to the new technology as it develops and a shorter attention span may simply be a normal side effect.

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