The answer is yes, but it’s not that straightforward. Since the year 2000 people’s ability to concentrate on a specific subject has decreased an average of four seconds, from twelve to eight. However, the good thing is that we now find it easier to carry out more than one task at a time, multitasking.
The drop is explained, partly, by today’s conduct and consumerism habits, which are closely linked to the use of different tech, such as mobile phones. This is the main conclusion of a study carried out by Microsoft, which attempted to measure the impact these and other devices have on our daily life. The focus group was made up of over 2000 Canadians who were divided into two large groups: those who are technologically active and those who aren’t.
Eight seconds is a very short period. So much so that the analysis made by the computer giant assures us that a gold fish (that tiny orange fish many of you will have won at fairs) beat us, humans, by a second. But, the loss in length of our attention span is compensated by the quality: we pay attention for a shorter period but with greater intensity, especially at the beginning. However, this perception of things does not mean that we won’t remember the messages we receive, or that the only thing processed will be the moment of elevated attention. The report claims that a lot of the information we receive during the whole time frame will remain in our memory.
On the other hand, those who are not digitally active show a different pattern in how their brain manages their attention span. The tables are turned for those who don’t make a habitual use of new technology. In this case there is no peak at the beginning, in fact they pay less attention at the beginning of the task. Their attention increases as time goes on and they begin to process more details.
An element that needs to see change is advertising, or at least how the story is told so as to attract the attention of these users that want a quick and direct point of impact. Alyson Gausby, head of Microsoft Canada’s consumer intelligence department, the division that carried out the study, states: “we need to provide clearer, more precise messages as soon as possible”. In Gausby’s mind it is almost a journalistic task, “it’s like making headlines” she concludes.
Adverts therefore need to be clear and to the point, like those we see on billboards. These work with messages that are direct and capture the consumer’s attention as soon as they see them. To be able to seduce users in these times of diversified attention due to the use of the web, adverts need to be like that too.
Basically the brand that can win the user over in the shortest time possible will beat all the others. The Internet and technology have reduced our concentration span but at the same time, granted it with greater precision enabling us to be more versatile.