Attention span & multitasking in the world today

22 April 2021

Think back to the last live meeting you’ve had. Did you notice how many people were staring at or texting on their smartphone, or another device, whilst the meeting was taking place?

Now think back to the last remote meeting you had? Can you remember how often someone responded by asking, ‘Can you repeat that?’ Quite a few times, I’d bet.

Who – or what – would you say carries the blame for this?

Never stop questioning, said Einstein

Now consider this: Albert Einstein (1879-1955), arguably the greatest physicist of all time, said many decades ago (!):

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”.

What would Einstein have remarked today?!


A stands for attention (span)

In 2019 www.theguardian.com published a report ‘Got a minute? Global attention span is narrowing, study reveals’.

They reported that due to the amount of information (on a daily, if not an hourly basis) that is presented to the public, the collective global attention span has been narrowed.  These findings were made in a study conducted by researchers at the Technical University of Denmark.

In short, the information age has changed the general attention span worldwide. Never mind changed, it has shortened our attention span!

Bear in mind though, that average attention span is task-dependent.  How much attention we apply to a specific task, depends on what the task demand is and on how many times we have done this before.


F stands for focus

Nowadays people have more things to focus on. But, they often – sometimes mostly – focus on things for short periods of time.

Constant news feeds, constant messages, numerous hyperlinks within articles and videos that are 10 minutes or far less exhaust our attention. It leads to “an urge for newness”. This causes us to switch between topics, on repeat.

All of this has rewired our brains, many researchers claim.

Not only that, most of us, at some time or other, tend to multitask.


M stands for multitask

A study from more than 20 years ago found – though this can be disputed of course – that only 2% of the population can effectively multitask.

Now think back to those meetings again…

Are meeting attendees to be blamed for a lack of focus or decreasing attention span? Is that why they are texting or checking out Instagram or Facebook?

Or, are attendees claiming to multitask? If the answer is yes, are they being more efficient or are they wasting time?

Multitasking is less efficient if tasks are complicated or unfamiliar, studies have proven. They describe it as follows: Each time a person switches between two tasks, they have to “shift mental gears”. This takes time and focus has to be regained.


😉 Got to the end of this article? Seems like your attention span is still okay… Want to know more?
Read here: Global attention span is narrowing and trends don’t last as long, study reveals

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