Flush the Goldfish Stats – Human Attention Spans Aren’t Shrinking

Flush the Goldfish Stats – Human Attention Spans Aren’t Shrinking

Since apparently, we have an attention span shorter than eight seconds, you won't be able to get to the end of this article! Or is that not really the case?

It was revealed in 2015 that goldfish (Yes-those small little creatures that live in a fishbowl) have a longer attention span than the average human, according to a study by Microsoft. Awesome, right?! The research found that human attention spans have dropped from twelve seconds in 2010 to just eight, in 2015, now making ours one second shorter than that of a goldfish.

Now let’s backtrack a second and think… when was the last time you successfully focused on a task longer than eight seconds? Think of something yet? No?

I’ll bet you had to remember WAY back—five or so minutes ago– to the last time you achieved this level of concentration.

Have you been able to read through this blog post so far without any distractions? If so, then applaud yourself because your attention span is longer than eight seconds; not only are you “above average,” but also more attentive than one of those orange fish you win at the town carnival!

So, how did “Microsoft” get this study so wrong? You may have even remembered or seen stats form this “report” published in Time Magazine, The Guardian, USA Today and the New York Times. Seems legit, right?

Research was conducted in Canada, back in 2015 by “Microsoft”; 2000 people were surveyed and had their brain activity monitored while performing numerous tasks. Digging deeper, turns out that this research did not come from Microsoft, but rather a source called Statistic Brain.

Simon Maybin from BBC tried contacting Statistic Brain numerous times to back up their stats, but after multiple attempts he was unsuccessful, making him suspicious of this study.

Basically, it all sounded fishy, right? Ha-ha-get it?!

“I have spoken to various people who dedicate their working lives to studying human attention and they have no idea where the numbers come from either,” stated Maybin, concluding that the idea of a human’s attention span decrease was inaccurate since the research conducted was not reliable.

If you think about it though, it makes sense to believe that our attention spans are in decline. It’s become increasingly harder to focus on anything, for an extended amount of time. For example, the almighty smartphone is a constant source of distraction for most of us, providing content, social media, games, etc. that can easily divert our attention. Although, how is it that we can easily watch a 4-hour baseball game or binge watch an entire season of Game of Thrones in just one weekend but somehow find ourselves struggling to pay attention during a one-hour lecture hall or business meeting?

Research from Prezi’s State of Attention shows that this is because we are now more selective about what we dedicate our attention to. The study further explains that human’s attention span is improving and expanding over time, not declining as we are more selective about what we choose to dedicate our attention to.

Now how does this affect us in the business world? Employees must always be fully engaged in the workplace. If workers are distracted or not fully committed, this could impact a business in a negative way; employees won’t reach their full potential, hindering their performance.

The State of Attention study also shows that 95% of employees say they multitask during meetings (we are masters at multitasking, aren’t we?) These findings show that those who multitask are distracted and have trouble retaining information captured in a meeting when their focus is shifted toward something else or trying to do five tasks at once.

Creating a more engaged workforce by generating content that includes visual stimulation and dialogue, according to the State of Attention study, can reduce the risk of distraction, making sure employees remain focused and active.

So, there you have it- flush those goldfish stats! Human being’s attention span is not shorter than that of a goldfish. Our attention span is improving and with the use of engaging, relevant content and visuals, the greater the chance our attention span will continue to increase and not truly become that, or lesser than that, of a gold fish.