Attention Span: How It’s Getting Lost & How To Get It Back

Gloria Mark, Ph.D.

Science explains why it’s so hard to pay attention and not be distracted.

In this Episode of The Human Upgrade™...

… you’ll meet Gloria Mark, Ph.D., who studies how digital media impacts people’s lives. Her research specifically covers how attention is affected by, and has changed, with the rise of the digital age. She’s found that attention span now averages 47 seconds on a screen—and even that’s shrinking.

“In 2004, when we first started measuring this, we found attention span on any screen averaged two and a half minutes,” Gloria explains. “At the time, we thought, wow, this is really short, a lot shorter than I imagined. But we’ve continually been measuring this over the years using computer logging techniques. So, we get objective measures. In the last five years or so, it’s reached a steady state of about 47 seconds on any screen. My Ph.D. student, right before the pandemic started, she had logged attention of 50 information workers over 30 days and found an average of 44 seconds.”

As a Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics at the University of California-Irvine researching human-computer interaction, Gloria examines how people handle multitasking, task-switching, interruptions, and emotions. Her new book “Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity” looks at human technology use from a psychological perspective.

“In the thousands of hours that I have studied people in the course of their daily work, I have heard a common sentiment,” Gloria says in her book. “People report that they are overworked and exhausted because they have to deal with too much information and too many messages.”

This conversation gets into the science of attention, the stress it’s causing, plus real solutions for how you can regain focus with your personal technologies. You’ll learn:

  • How to recognize the four main types of attention;
  • What consequences of constant interruption do to your stress levels and productivity;
  • How to achieve focus, rhythm and balance in a day filled with attention-switching;
  • How to structure a flow state within your day; and
  • What four things you can do to gain agency in the digital world. 

Watch this episode on YouTube!

“Our use of personal technologies affects our ability to pay attention. In the last two decades, human minds have collectively undergone a striking change in how they focus on information.”

Gloria Mark, Ph.D. / "Attention Span"

More about Gloria Mark, Ph.D.: She earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia University, a master’s degree in Statistics at the University of Michigan, and a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She’s published over 200 articles. In 2017, she was inducted into the ACM SIGCHI Academy which recognizes leaders in the field of human-computer interaction. Her research has been featured in numerous media outlets, e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Atlantic, the BBC, and many others. She has presented her work at SXSW and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Enjoy the show!

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