Is social media to blame for shortened attention spans?

PHOENIX - Can you concentrate longer than a goldfish? It may seem like a silly question, but researchers claim it's getting harder and harder for human beings to say 'yes' to that question.

A 2015 study by Microsoft of about 2,000 Canadians showed the average human attention span to be just eight seconds. That's compared to goldfish, which are believed to be able to focus for nine seconds.

"People are taking in about six newspapers' worth of data every day," said Dr. Lisa Strohman, CEO and founder of Technology Wellness Center in Scottsdale. "So you have to understand that we are overloaded.”

But how can we be overloaded when tweets are limited to 140 characters?

Well, the endless supply of those tweets, which are extremely condensed forms of information, has created an urge in our brains to keep scrolling and refreshing.

"The first thing that happens when you get that notification is there's a short burst of dopamine, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter in our brain that gets us really excited," Dr. Strohman said. "It's the same pathway that drugs actually highlight."

And when our brains are filled with that happy feeling, we keep on scrolling.

The issue has recently come to the attention of the NBA, with Commissioner Adam Silver telling the media:

"Obviously people, particularly millennials, have increasingly short attention spans, so it’s something as a business we need to pay attention to," Silver said.

"What you're really saying is viewers aren't able to unplug long enough to enjoy an actual athletic event," Dr. Strohman said.

The recommended advice is to give your brain, whether an adult or child, a break for at least four hours and challenge yourself, whether at work or school, to avoid checking your smartphone for at least two hours.

According to Dr. Strohman, that allows yourself uninterrupted time to focus on tasks at full concentration.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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