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Wait, what? Why you have a shorter attention span than a goldfish

A child looks at a fish tank in Colombo on October 12, 2010.
A child looks at a fish tank in Colombo on October 12, 2010.

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If a new study by Microsoft is correct, you might be feeling pretty antsy by the end of this sentence.

After surveying 2,000 Canadian participants and measuring the brain activity of 112 more, Microsoft discovered that, since the year 2000, average attention span decreased a whole four seconds. The researchers chose the year 2000 as a starting point because this year marked the unofficial beginning of the “mobile revolution.”

Over the past 15 years, attention spans have dropped from 12 to eight seconds. That bowl-dwelling, glittery housepet? Nine seconds. The study authors theorize that our brains have adapted over time; constant exposure to multiple streams of digital media have resulted in a weaker attention span.

Don’t worry, baby boomers: you probably haven’t gone full goldfish just yet. 77% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said that they reach for their smartphones to stave-off boredom. That number drops dramatically to 10%, among people over the age of 65.

Do you feel like technology has had a negative effect on your attention span? What about the young people in your life?

Microsoft Attention Spans Research Report


Sandi Mann, senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire