I was chatting with a 5th grade teacher about his class a couple days ago and he said his entire class has trouble paying attention this year. He mentioned that it was not always this bad and that it is becoming worse over the years. I suggested that it might be due to technology since I believe that my attention span has gotten worse since I started using smart phones. It seems that almost everyone has a problem focusing when they are around technology. That is why I like that laptops aren’t allowed in Andrew’s class. I can’t find myself sitting through a whole class without browsing the internet when I have my laptop with me. After chatting with the teacher, I went home and did some research to see if technology is really affecting our attention span.
It turns out that a recent Microsoft Corporation study found that technology is impacting our ability to stay focused. They surveyed over 2,000 Canadians that were age 18 or older and also played online games. Their goal was to find out how technology was affecting their attention spans. In addition, they used electroencephalograms (EEG’s) to study the brain activity in over a 100 people. The results were a little shocking. Humans attention span had fallen from twelve seconds to eight seconds which is less than a goldfish’s average nine seconds. This loss in focus was seen in all age groups and genders but there were some other interesting results. One result was that females seemed to have a shorter attention span than males but was only by a very small margin. Another thing they found was that our ability to multitask was getting better.
A smaller study by Dr Lee Hadlington of De Montford University Leicester found similar results. The study was done on 210 people that aged from 18 to 65. It found that people who used their phone the most frequently tended to have a worse attention span. Dr. Hadlington stresses that we should know more about the effects of technology because of the amount we use it and I couldn’t agree more. I think that more studies might reveal how technology can both benefit and harm us. Even though the study did find a link between attention span and technology use, Hadlington says it is not completely clear if technology is the cause of a smaller attention span.
After doing a little bit more digging around the internet, I found article that goes against Microsoft’s findings. Scientific research found that some people that play video games have a better time paying attention than those that don’t play video games. It also showed that those who didn’t play video games could pay attention better after they started playing video games. It turns out the Microsoft study was mainly done for advertisers and it tells advertisers that they need to find more catchy ways to advertise. Companies seem to be fighting for our attention. The increase in advertisements in the modern world has also led to an increase in distractions. This is why you see you can pay to remove adds from certain apps like Pandora.
Human’s cognitive abilities change all the time and can even vary day by day. It is not completely clear what effect technology has on our attention span. Even though I technology might be the reason I can’t focus as well, it is very hard to prove that. One thing that is for sure, is that there needs to be more studies done on how technology affects humans. We all use technology on a daily basis but we have little comprehension of what it does to us. It is nice to be able to google the answer to almost question but is there a price to pay for that? Technology has it’s pros and cons but how does it affect humans? Hopefully science can answer that question soon.
Is technology rotting your brain?. (2015).Mail Online. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3200693/Is-technology-rotting-brain-Heavy-mobile-phone-internet-use-linked-poor-attention-span.html
Why A Goldfish Probably Has A Better Attention Span Than You. (2015). Medical Daily. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://www.medicaldaily.com/human-attention-span-shortens-8-seconds-due-digital-technology-3-ways-stay-focused-333474
Is technology making your attention span shorter than a goldfish’s?. (2016).Phys.org. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://phys.org/news/2015-05-technology-attention-span-shorter-goldfish.html