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Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine
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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 2:11:24 PM
Re: Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine
@ariella- yeah, what I did was look into ADHD research. There are some studies on fruit flies among and other low attention span creatures designed to help with ADHD research. They are somehow able to image the brains of small creatures. i just don't understand the method. The important thing actually isn't the goldfish stat though. the far more important part of the stat is lowering the attention span 25% in just 13 years. That is amazing. And it shows we are adapting to something. The environment of a goldfish is fairly static.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
5/18/2015 | 1:51:32 PM
Re: One second less than the attention span of a goldfish?
<So when the study showed that multi-screening allowed us to remember more, it is because what we were doing is actually making better use of somehting that is already a part of us.>

@David I think that is rather like the effect of doodling during class. Some teachers take offense because they see it as a sign of the kid paying attention. But really it helps one stay more tuned in if occupied in that way. I think students who don't do anything are much more likely to totally space out and absorb less in the class.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
5/18/2015 | 1:48:30 PM
Re: Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine
@David I see the report on Newser that made that statement about goldfish attention span doesn't explain how it was measured.  I spent way more than 9 seconds trying to unearth how the goldfish's brain waves are measured in terms that I can understand but only found a book that got into the points of difference in inverterbrates and verterbrates without explaining how they are measured.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 1:35:45 PM
Re: Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine
@ariella- I don't know exactly how it is done. I read a briefing of a study that simply said "brain recordings." When I read the fully study, I'll be the first to admit I didn't understand it. In humans, we do it with EEG. I assume we don't put little EEG helmets on goldfish. But I assme the concept is the same.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 12:51:07 PM
Re: Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine
@zerox203- I think your video game analogy is important because it instructs the difference between attention span and willingness to do things for a long time. A video game allows for task switching. You go between the physcial challenges of moving your hands, various mental challenges like spacial relations and the "puzzle" of the game, etc.

You aren't actually keeping one moment of attnetion for 45 minutes. You are actually devoting your attnetion in bursts to different parts of the game. That's what we're really adapting to, moving our brain from place to place as needed as fast as possible.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 12:29:07 PM
Re: Microsoft Says Short Attention Spans Are Fine
@Broadway- We're not concentrating less, because of our short attention spans. We're actally concentrating more. We're just doing it in shorter bursts. We're responding to a world around us which is demanding our split attention. People are evolving the ability to move their focus around faster and faster and remember more and be engaged more. That is not mediocre, it is just a different way of working. 

Doing one long task for a long time doesn't mean you pay perfect attention to it. It just means you had the discipline to sit there. But our brain frontloads attention so task switching and continuing to respond to the movement around us allows us to concentrate on more things and do them all better. It isn't about spin. It is about observing the brain's responses to stimuli around it.

We should actually be happy this is happening. Because if it wasn't we'd have brains that were poorly adapted to the world we created ourselves.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 12:21:49 PM
Re: Microsoft - It figures.
@anon- The ability to do long tasks isn't necessarily the same thing as attention span. For instance, one can easily spend 8 hours a day on an assembly line job doing a repetitive task for 8 hours. That isn't attention span. That's actually the opposite. Most likely, that person has adapted to their job to actually devote few brain resources to that task so they they get through it either by thinking about something else or even just shutting down and sleep walking through it. 

Doing a long task doesn't mean that your brain is fully engaged. To actually "pay attention" to something you are devoting huge resources to it. You engage multiple parts of your brain. Your brain can wander from the task without stopping hte task. How often do you drive on a road trip, for example? You drive for hours and hours. Your brain devotes some resources to driving safely. But you also sing along to the music or talk to other people in the car. Or you think about whatever you think about. You are paying attention to many things. Your brain is switching what it is paying attention to. It is devoting resources differently.

So the ability to switch tasks and give burst of attention to things that are needed is not about not doing a task for a long time, it is actually allowing you to do that task more efficiently. You keep more of everything than you would if you tried to keep encoding everything you see doing one thing. That's why you don't remember every mile on the drive with perfect clarity. But you remember the moment the dog ran out into the highway.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/18/2015 | 12:13:20 PM
Re: One second less than the attention span of a goldfish?
@Susan- I have no doubt some people are higher. But I think a lot of us confuse what attention span really is. It is the time won can concentrate without being distracted, not the time until we get bored and want to do something else. Attention span isn't the same thing as your ability to draw your focus back in and complete a task. A lot of people don't realize how often their attention waivers. This is why the TV watching experiement in the study is so imporant.

People think when they sit down and watch a TV show or reading a book or they spent 30 minutes concentrating on that task. In reality, they didn't. In reality, the resources their brain devoted to it went up and down in bursts based on what they were thinking. For instance, maybe they saw a grocery bag on a table during the show and they spent a few seconds thinking about what they needed at teh store. Or they looked at some character's dress instead of paying attention to the plot. We focus our attention in short bursts even during long tasks. 

So when the study showed that multi-screening allowed us to remember more, it is because what we were doing is actually making better use of somehting that is already a part of us.

We're confusing attention span with boredom. Sure, someone who meditates can sit quietly and concentrate but when it comes to tasks their brain is by necessity going to task switch and change concentraiton levels. It is part of the brain's way of doing things. 
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
5/18/2015 | 12:10:04 PM
Re: tl;dr
@PefroGonzales I'm guilty of that. I often check my email, social media updates, etc. while eating breakfast or lunch. I don't like to do it during dinner though.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
5/18/2015 | 12:02:23 PM
Re: tl;dr
@vnewman2 we adapt too easily to fast dowloads -- even those of us who remember the days before the internet and the days of dialing into Prodigy.
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