Are our attention spans getting shorter?

I've been looking at research around attention spans as I'm examining how Research in Practice might develop our online learning offer.

It's no surprise that people interact differently in an online space when compared to in-person spaces. But what does the evidence actually tell us?

Attention Span Somebody looking at a butterfly instead of doing work on a computer

Are our attention spans decreasing?

Contrary to popular belief, our attention spans aren't shrinking due to our increasing use of technology. This article on the BBC serves as a warning for how we use evidence without checking the sources. Facts and figures from dubious sources have been shared around the effect of technology without any actual evidence to support these claims.

So if our attention spans aren't shrinking, does this mean we can go back to death by PowerPoint again?

“How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is”

This quote from the article gave me plenty to think about. If there is no demand or exercise that requires people to listen, they are likely to switch off. Talking at people for an extended period of time, particularly in an online space where people have lots of competing demands for their attention, means that people will likely tune out. There isn't a perfect amount of time that will ensure that people maintain their focus – this is context and content specific. But if we involve people in the delivery and demonstrate that their input is both required and appreciated, then they are more likely to focus and feed in to the exercises that we run.

Follow me on