TORONTO, May 15 (UPI) -- A small study by researchers at Microsoft has found the human attention span is shortening. At just 8 seconds, they say it is now shorter than the attention span of the average goldfish.
The study, which featured a combination of surveys and mind games, was an apparently genuine attempt by scientists with the software company to better understand how mobile technology has affected attention span.
More than 100 volunteers in Canada responded to a questionnaire and played cognitive games designed to quantify attention spans. While answering questions and playing games, participants were monitored by electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive method for recording brain activity.
The results suggest the average attention of an adult in the Information Age is now eight seconds -- down from 12 seconds in 2000, the average the last time Microsoft conducted a similar study. This puts the human attention span at one second shorter than that of a goldfish.
"Canadians with more digital lifestyles (those who consume more media, are multi-screeners, social media enthusiasts, or earlier adopters of technology) struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed," researchers wrote in their published findings.
But the study also found that heavy technology users were better at multitasking. Researchers suggest a slightly shorter attention span may be the payoff for a brain better adapted to utilize multiple sources of information and entertainment.
But not everyone's convinced the data is proof that our brain has actually changed. Bruce Morton, a brain scientist at the University of Western Ontario's Brain & Mind Institute, says that the data only shows that humans' are using their brains differently.
"Just because we may be allocating our attention differently as a function of the technologies we may be using, it doesn't mean that the way our attention actually can function has changed."