Attention span shorter than a goldfish


Natalie Larimer, Online Sub-Editor

Attention span is a small thing we don’t really mention too much, but it can affect our lives deeply. I for one, have a very short attention span (unless we’re talking chemistry). I’d like to dive into the “normal” attention span and what it means when you vary from it – and hopefully I don’t get too off topic.

Before I start, however, let’s introduce you to the world of attention. The attention span is the ability to focus on an activity without becoming distracted. I have an attention span of probably .02 seconds, so it is very difficult to do things for an extended period of time.

According to (bookmarked on my laptop), since 2000, the average attention span of humans dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. That’s less than that of a goldfish, who holds a firm nine second attention span. Now compared to a fruit fly, holding a strong three seconds, we are doing pretty well. But seriously, if a goldfish could pay attention in math class better than you, get some help.

Now I realize that while I wrote this, I took an accidental 19 hour break because I forgot this article existed. I have never been more aware of how this short attention span has influenced my life. For instance, once I was in the middle of an essay test and I spaced off until I was abruptly awakened from my trance by the bell, meaning I had to turn in my three word essay.

Maybe this short attention span isn’t all that bad though. If you think about it (if you don’t forget in eight seconds), our society has to evolve to keep our attention for longer than eight seconds. This means more interesting stories, better movies, and faster communication. If you go back and look at old movies, chances are that they are the most boring things you’ve ever seen in your entire life and absolutely cannot watch without being on your phone the whole time. Our brains are more active and our thoughts jump from one to the next without dwelling too long on certain things. It might not get you through history class, but it could be very helpful for brainstorming ideas.

So take this however you like, but the goldfish have one-upped us. Seriously, what does a goldfish have to focus on? I’ve always wanted to know.