Instant Improver

Microsoft study reveals that tech is altering our attention span

We've lost an average of four seconds of concentration since 2000. Which means we've got about another two paragraphs before you wander off and find something else to click.

According to a study conducted by Microsoft on the impact of digital media on concentration spans, the average human's ability to focus has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2013 - one second shorter than the oft-mocked goldfish.

But there is a payoff: as our habits shift to make sense of the ceaseless array of content offered by the modern media machine, most of us are seeing an improvement in our ability to multitask and concentrate in short sharp bursts. So time for a break. Here's a funny video of a cat. We'll see you in a second.

Good to have you back.

Microsoft's study saw a group of Canadian volunteers plugged up to EEG scanners while watching videos and playing simple games - monitoring how their attention fluctuated with each exercise. The results were then compared to their reported media use, including how often they watched media simultaneously on two screens and how frequently they checked their phones. Which is interesting.

In addition to finding that the average attention span had fallen, the researchers saw that respondents fell into three categories: those with sustained concentration skills; those with selective skills - shifting their focus in the face of competing stimuli - and those who would alternate their concentration between different tasks very frequently.

While most of us who use digital media will have had our attention spans effected in some way, 'early-adopters' (those who have grown up with digital media) will have a tendency to front-load their attention, allowing huge amounts of information to be absorbed before switching their focus to something else, resulting in an increase in bursts of high attention. You can find the full results here

So if you've managed to work your way to this point in the article without being sidetracked by an instant message or Tweet, chances are you've got some sustained concentration skills. Well done you. Here's another heart-warming pet video to celebrate, and a concise set of findings from the study.

[Via: Microsoft]