Microsoft study claims technology shortens our attention span

A new study from Microsoft shows that our attention spans may be dwindling. The culprit? Technology.

Microsoft study technology shortens attention spans
Credit: Pete Brown

In a report that may not surprise anyone, a new study from Microsoft reveals that our attention spans are at an all-time low, and the culprit, not surprisingly, is the ubiquity of technology which now touches every corner of our lives 24/7.

Indeed, you can thank the iPhone for ushering in the smartphone era and creating a world where most of us remain tethered to our devices, lest we miss a text message or the latest sports scores.

According to Microsoft's study, which was conducted via EEG scans, the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. To put that data into context, the average attention span of a goldfish is about 9 seconds, according to the study.

Medical Xpress adds:

The researchers also found that those volunteers who used their digital devices more than others, tended to have more trouble focusing in situations where it was required to function. They also noted that early adopters or users who have used digital devices quite heavily have learned over time to front-load their attention, allowing large amounts of information to flow in and to be processed, before switching their focus to something else, resulting in an increase in bursts of high attention. The researchers suggest this means they are better at determining what information they want to focus on and which to ignore.

So I suppose this is the silver lining of it all; while our attention spans may be somewhat diminished, we are sometimes able to counteract that by devoting an inordinate amount of attention to certain tasks for short periods of time.

The full research report can be downloaded over here.

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