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Microsoft Technology

Microsoft Study Finds Technology Hurting Attention Spans 109

jones_supa writes: Conducting both surveys and EEG scans, Microsoft has published a study suggesting that the average attention span has fallen precipitously since the start of the century. While people could focus on a task for 12 seconds back in 2000, that figure dropped to 8 seconds in 2013 (about one second less than a goldfish). Reportedly, a lot of that reduction stems from a combination of smartphones and an avalanche of content. The study found also a sunny side: while presence of technology is hurting attention spans overall, it also appears to improve person's abilities to both multitask and concentrate in short bursts.
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Microsoft Study Finds Technology Hurting Attention Spans

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  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @07:23PM (#49714269)
    • Re:what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @08:09PM (#49714527) Journal



      • Form the university of the bleeding obvious. All they needed to do was read the post on /. to realise that posters are generally don't have the attention span to RTFA - a bit like me on this article
      • Worse than the first posts here on /. ... the full article is about 2 sentences longer than the summary!. Its literally 2 poorly formed paragraphs. Thats it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not a what or a when, but a note to the webmasters ...

      Now that the human beings' attention span is one second less than that of the goldfish, you have to choices left -

      1. Re-design your site so that it can attract the attention of the visitors in less than 8 seconds
      ... or ...
      2. Dedicate your site to the goldfish

  • I blame Microsoft Internet Explorer. The timing lines up perfectly.
    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @07:52PM (#49714427)
      Heh. You know, IE was the first browser that was supplied with the dominant desktop operating system integrated right into the UI, dating back to Windows 95 OSR2. Before that you had to rely on an OEM or other systems integrator if a browser was to be preinstalled. Otherwise you had to get one on disk or download one via FTP.
      • by linebackn ( 131821 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @08:47PM (#49714697)

        Otherwise you had to get one on disk.

        Which is exactly how normal people obtained software back then. Most cheap computers didn't come with that much useful software pre-installed.

        Don't forget to click the buttons below to share this on facebook and twitter :P

        Already forgot what else I was going to type :P

        • Most cheap computers didn't come with that much useful software pre-installed.

          This is more of an issue now than it was even then. Buying a pre-made PC is just buying a bunch of trial offers, which you then have to remove. Or more appropriately, reinstall the OS cleanly.

          Unless you build your own hardware and install from scratch or buy OS X or Linux, you're going to get a bunch of trial-ware spam.

      • by Livius ( 318358 )

        You mean you had to do what you did with every other piece of software on your computer?

  • Impossible! (Score:4, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @07:32PM (#49714323) Homepage Journal

    I have a really cleaver proof that this is not possible, which regrettably does not fit within this 8 seconds to typ

  • ,___,
    O RLY?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2015 @07:38PM (#49714365)

    As in "the ability to do 5 things in parallel with crappier results than doing 5 things sequentially."

    Multitasking efficiently and effectively is a myth.

    • While reading your proclamation I could help but notice that you

    • proven that multitasking up to 5 tasks works
  • Goldfish? (Score:5, Funny)

    by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @07:39PM (#49714367) Journal
    What kind of goldfish? An African one, or a European? Or a demented goldfish living in a bowl of cheap tequila?
    • What kind of goldfish? An African one, or a European? Or a demented goldfish living in a bowl of cheap tequila?

      We should start giving goldfish smartphones.

    • What kind of goldfish? An African one, or a European? Or a demented goldfish living in a bowl of cheap tequila?

      Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, of course!

    • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @10:20PM (#49715175)

      [swims back and forth] "click." TFA here I come. Don't tell anyone.
      [opens and closes mouth] Oh Gawd, it's Engadget [enables golly gee-whiz filter]
      "...dropped to 8 seconds in 2013 -- about one second less than a goldfish"
      Now that's... Huh? Sorry, I missed that. [eats a bubble]
      "Thankfully, it's not all bad. While tech is hurting attention spans overall, it also..."
      Yeah something good right? Not in the mood for good news. I'll click on something blue.
      Oh it's the actual study! "Click". [swims back and forth] Oops, Hello.
      It's about Canadians. [spits out bubble] That's nice. What a nice couple.
      [something something] "and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention"
      Glad I'm a goldfish then. We're still not at the research report yet. "Click." Oops, a dialog.
      "Download the Canadian attention spans research report (2.0M)
      Download the infographic (173K)"

      Now why would I just want to get the infographic...? Oh!
      I get it! THIS IS the attention span test! "Click: the report"
      [plays on bubble Ferris wheel as PDF loads]
      That woman is either taking a picture or is trying to scroll text by moving the computer up and down.
      She had to stand up to scroll to the top of the page. License plate "71"?. Hmmm. [scroll]
      "Think digital is killing attention spans? Think again."
      I read this twice, so my opinion is back to what it originally was.
      [yadda yadda] "Good news! It's not as bad as you think."
      [continuous sirens in the distance] Tornado warning! [rain/branches beat on window]
      Maybe it IS as bad as I think. [wind shrieks] Confound this nuisance. [lightning strikes!]
      [Power goes out] [minutes pass] [sirens stop] [power comes on]
      "AMI BIOS" "Select profile" "Welcome" "starting wlnotify.dll"
      [sleeps with eyes wide open CLICK HERE FOR IMPORTANT INFO [] ]
      [open browser] [access slashdot] "Welcome to AT&T (The Fucking Modem)" What the fuck.
      [looks at lights] DSL not up. It's NAT-ting my browser traffic to itself. F'king UVERSE.
      "Click to run diagnostics." Okay. Click. "Enter modem access code." FUCK.
      [fortunately fishbowl is next to modem and curvature magnifies tiny sticker] [enters 10 digit number]
      "Ethernet/DSL/PTM: Pass Authentication:Fail" Their computer rebooting after 10 minutes?
      I thought nothing was slower than XP. [5 minutes pass] [reload] "Authentication: Pass"
      [tabs remembered by voodoo magick] First thing that's gone right. [glances up]
      (every icon next to every browser tab has been replaced by an AT&T DEATHSTAR logo.
      the only reason this is not in all caps is slashdot's lameness filter. shhhh. don't wake up the lameness filter)
      On no, AT&T Is in my mind. I can feel it. Do I have NATty favicon corruption?
      [warily, with nervous dread} "" [ENTER] [hideous 32x32 AT&T icon fills screen]
      [exit viewer] NOO! What brain-dead thweep would serve favicon from a NAT-redirected router?
      [slaps Firefox around] It's all your fault! I should downgrade you to 1992! Favicon support!
      [AT&T logo still icon on all tabbed sites] THAT LOGO, it keeps winking and blinking at me! [] I'm insane!
      [thrashes about, bumps on glass] Do we have a potion for this? Yesss. A potion [rustles about in bubble castle]
      [opens js console]
      var fS = Components.classes[";1"].getService(Components.interfaces.nsIFaviconService);
      [squeak] (have old js console it always squeaks)
      fS.expireAllFavicons(); [squeak]
      [whoosh!] [all icons missing] Already, an

    • ...or dragging a coconut by the husk?
    • Squirrel!


  • I like how this study is coming from the perpetrator of Metro tiles being foisted on anything and everything Microsoft (the non-touchscreen Windows OS, XBox, even Microsoft support websites, to a certain extent).

    Oh, but the upside is that we're better multitaskers... very slightly, since we're so accustomed to seeing about 55 different tiles with two-word captions and stock image tile backgrounds. Unfortunately, that counts very little, as it doesn't make up for the depth one can reach with dedicated concentration on a single topic at a time.

  • What was the question?

  • That seems to be in agreement with ... oh look! A squirrel! That can't be a kitty cat doing that?

  • I feel very stongly about

    oh wait, shiny thing !

  • I can't even remember the last time it was discussed here []

  • You know this sort of thing... wait pop up, OK now where was I? oh yeah this sort of ... wait IM...

  • TL;DR
  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @08:30PM (#49714613) Journal
  • Technology has switched the child mind from being content with getting an answer in one day, to getting the answer in one minute, but on the other hand it allows children to focus there interests more in depth at certain areas and focus into them. For instance if a child like to program, then you'll notice they'll have a great attention span well they program. Where as a child into music would have there attention span put towards that. I wouldn't say that technology has shortened the attention span of c
    • by udippel ( 562132 )

      I'd wish you had rather put some of your attention spans into your post, sorry. Because I can feel that there is something interesting you want to say, and that I would like to read (reference to children), but that seems to have gone into some bin for ... lack of attention?

  • ... they want us to pay more attention to them.

  • Microsoft is doing the study.....Uh (checking facebook)... Nevermind.
  • This could be the right conclusion. It's hard to tell from the paper itself, which is a bit light in experimental detail; and it comes with an 'executive summary' which is even lighter still, and referenced by articles which have almost no content left. Maybe it is an inevitable reaction of the users to the torrent of fractal summaries of summaries we get today.
  • Could Microsoft's "popup dialogue" windows and being forced to reboot in the middle of work be a factor?

  • I suspect this is a lot to do with the definition of task. When I switch to FTP or e-mail at work, it's because that's part of the job I'm doing, not to do something wholly unrelated.

    In a classic Unix system, a 'task' might mean three or four programs piped together for each command.

  • So Microsoft is saying that if they were better at writing software, my attention span would be better? Because I blame all the workflows interrupted by a blue screen... Shit, just saw one yesterday. Apparently running Firefox, Chrome, and a DX11 game at the same time is a bit hard on the nvidia driver. It doesn't crash immediately, just randomly.

  • How this fits in with their "Anyone can learn to code" initiatives.
  • I got as far as "Microsoft Study..." and lost interest.
  • Microsoft will be pre-installing [] Candy Crush Saga to help people, well, focus... I guess...

    • by kmoser ( 1469707 )
      Just the extra attention span required to get around all the BSODs in Windows will make people smarter.
  • I've never had a problem with att--, oh look, a squirrel!

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau