It’s been widely reported that, in a recent study, researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs) and discovered that the average human attention span is eight seconds.
But if that were true, you wouldn’t still be reading this.
On the other hand, it could explain why Trump supporters never seem to be paying attention when their man says something insane. He usually manages to be “presidential” for eight seconds before going off on a rant, by which time his fans’ minds have wandered off, as has his.
It has also been noted that the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds, which would seem to indicate that small carp can hold a thought longer than humans. That could be true; after all, if there’s one thing you can say about goldfish, it’s that they didn’t have anything to do with the result of the last election.
Our severely limited ability to concentrate on one thing long enough to complete a sneeze (“Ah, ah, oh, look, a text”) is often said to be the result of the proliferation of devices demanding our attention at all times.
My wife, who, incidentally, sent me the article about this study, has been seen watching TV while playing a game on her iPad while glancing at her Apple Watch because a call was coming in to her iPhone. It drives me kind of crazy when we’ll be sitting there, and suddenly she looks at her wrist and races from the room, as if she has just realized she’s late for an appointment at 9 pm in the middle of watching “Westworld” in her loungewear. (She doesn’t like actually trying to conduct a conversation through her watch, so she goes to where her phone is charging.)
Wow, that was a long paragraph. I don’t know how I got through it.
The reason that our devices are being blamed for our inability to concentrate is that our attention span was 12 seconds at the beginning of the century, when all we had were flip phones. Yes, that’s right–just 17 years ago, “text” hadn’t even become a verb yet!
But still, we must be able to concentrate for longer than eight seconds, right? I mean, jeez, even my dog Riley can focus for way longer than that. He’ll stare at me relentlessly when he wants to play. I’ll be trying to write, and I can feel his little eyes boring into me, and he won’t even friggin’ move! (As proof, the three photos at left were taken over a span of about 20 minutes.) And, I don’t know about you, but I just can’t work while being stared at, and…
Wait, what was I talking about again?
Of course, it has not gone unnoticed that our President, for whom, you may recall, goldfish bear no responsibility, has a notoriously short attention span. So much so, in fact, that, earlier this year, Newsweek reported that NATO wanted some of the world’s top leaders to cut down their discussions to a maximum of four minutes for their first meeting with Trump.
Four minutes? He’d be off tweeting about his wall long before then! I can just imagine someone from the EU giving a major climate policy presentation, which she has cut down to five PowerPoint pages with no more than three bullet points per page, and looking up around page three to see the leader of the free world giving his thumbs a workout on his smart phone.
Anyway, I’ll end this post now, because I know I’ve already taxed your shrinking ability to read something with this many words without taking a break.
So go look at some puppy videos, and I’ll see you soon.