Canadian attention spans are shrinking, and here’s why

WATCH ABOVE: The Microsoft study blames social media and technology for our waning focus. Peter Kim reports.

Some of us can now only hold our focus for an average of eight seconds according to a new study by Microsoft. That’s one second less than a goldfish.

The company used questionnaires and game-related testing on more than two thousand people to arrive at the results.

“We also went for a bit of a deeper dive and did some neurological research. We hooked consumers up to EEGs (electroencephalograms) to measure their brain waves,” said Alyson Gausby, Consumer Insights Lead for Microsoft Canada.

Research pointed to social media and technology — smartphones, computers — as culprits for our waning attention spans.

Among the findings, 77 per cent of those surveyed said they reach for their phone when they’re bored. More than half, 52 per cent, said they check their phone every 30 minutes or less, and 79 per cent admitted to using their devices while in front of the television.

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But the figures shouldn’t alarm, according to J. Bruce Morton, researcher at the University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute. He says shortened attention spans can make us better multi-taskers and technology can facilitate increased productivity.

“At face value I think the numbers are kind of interesting, but I think what’s missing is a judicious interpretation of those numbers. I think it’s illogical to say, for instance, our thinking is comparable to that of a goldfish. That’s kind of akin to saying that we see the world in the same way as the goldfish because we all have two eyes,” said Morton.

The research was conducted on Microsoft’s behalf by third-party research vendors.  It was market research as opposed to an academic, peer-reviewed paper.

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