Can I Have Your Attention Please?

Microsoft recently conducted a study on the average current attention span, in comparison to the average attention span for an individual from 2000. It appears that our average attention had declined from a previous 12 seconds, to currently 8 seconds. The introduction of the smartphone has been a key contributor towards the decline of attention; but in terms of attention quality and attention economy, that 8 seconds is even more precious and valuable to competing media outlets. With the shortened attention span most likely caused by the smartphone, it just so happens that the ability to multi task has increased, so not all so bad.


In order to confirm that the average individual is more so distracted, and has a shorter attention span; I conducted a short experiment on my family. I had arranged for us to watch a family movie together (something that tends not to happen so much anymore). My experiment entailed documenting the number of times that each member of my family got distracted; or if those numbers are too high, for how often they were concentrated on the film. I am able to generate a hypothesis of my family considering that I am very familiar with their behaviors and use of technology, specifically with each of their smartphones. Due to the fact that each of the members of the family (mother, father, sister) generally have more compelling offers of distractions on their phones in comparison to a family movie, I predict they will all be distracted for the ongoing length of the film.

I decided on the film Pulp Fiction for the family movie, a film that is admired by all members of the family. At the commencement of the film, the attention of the film was promising; members only checked phones or were distracted by other devices when they buzzed, and attention was divided only for small periods of time before returning their attention to the film.

As the movie progressed, attention became increasingly divided, my sister was basically only on her smartphone for the remainder of the film; that was until she left to go to her room about three quarters way through the film. Both of my parents have loved the film Pulp Fiction for as long as I can remember, so naturally I expected for them to see the movie through with the majority of their attention focused on it. They did quite well, but in the last quarter of the film they were both on their phones quite frequently (average – checking phones every 3 minutes), and they didn’t make it to the end of the film without dozing off to sleep a couple of times either.

Considering that only a small sample size of one family were observed for this experiment, these results cannot deny nor confirm any theories, but a gap within generations is noted to be quite significant. Aside the experiment, I have noticed that younger generations that have grown up with the increased development of technology (such as the development of the smartphone), tend to rely on such technologies as distractions more than that who have grown up with the absence of it.

From the experiment conducted and the relevant studies and research on the recent average attention span, it can be asserted that attention economy is becoming increasingly more valuable for those competing for it. It is so common nowadays that if an individual is bored or dissatisfied with a situation, they can divert immediately to their phone. In terms of media economy, it may not be so bad that the average attention span has declined, because the main premise for that has been the use of the smartphone. If a media outlet wanted to grab an individual’s attention, the best source would be through smartphones.



Ingram, 2015, The attention economy and the implosion of traditional media, Available From: < > [Viewed 23rd September 2016]


Watson, 2015, Humans have shorter attention span than goldfish, thanks to smartphones, Available From: < > [Viewed 23rd September 2016]


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