A person’s attention span can have a major impact on performance at work, school or ability to deal with the tasks of everyday life. With the invention of modern gadgets and technology such as I-phones, Black Berry phones, television sets and so on, the attention span of most people have become shortened as a result of being distracted. This in one way or the other can result in missing out on important information, errors, or even worse. RALIAT YUSUF writes.
Attention span is the length of time a person can concentrate on a task, activity or idea without being distracted or the mind wandering off.The the longer a person’s attention span, the better he or she is in practically all spheres of human endeavor because people with long attention span are able to concentrate and absorb all the details in a conversation or meeting and as a result are able to make well grounded, informed and intelligent decisions or judgment rather than those with short span.
Research has established that attention span is decreasing because most people watch seven- to eight-minute television shows that then switch to commercials. Others claim that children have shorter attention spans depending on the amount of television or video games they play each day.
We all have attention spans – men, women, old and young but it differs from person to person. Though not empirically proven, it is believed that women have longer attention span than men. It is also on record that many children especially between the ages 4 to 7 (i.e. those in elementary schools) chronically suffer from ADD ( attention deficit disorder) i.e. inability to concentrate on one task for a long time.
A person might suffer from short attention span without being aware of it. Some signs include poor listening skills, failure to follow instructions accurately and completely, day dreaming in class or important meetings, interrupting people during conversations and avoidance or dislike for tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork, homework or work projects.
The advent today’s IT gadgets/modern technology – television (satellite or terrestrial),the internet, I-phones, Ipods, Ipad tablets and mobile phones, attention spans have dramatically become shortened and in many people it is not more than 60 seconds as people are either obsessively glued to their TV sets, computers, and mobiles – watching, typing, sending sms, tweeting, pinging or browsing as the case may be, completely oblivious to their surroundings, to the detriment of the oldest form of communication known to man – eye to eye, or better still word of mouth. In effect, they have become more and more impersonal in communication with each other.
The late popular American author,Neil Postman best known for his book about television, Amusing Ourselves to Death in his book believes that the attention span of humans is decreasing as modern technology, especially television, increases.
According to an Abuja based psychologist, Mr Abubakar Idris, a person’s attention span can be determined by the amount of time a person can focus on a task before losing concentration.
“There are several factors that could make a person’s attention span run thin such as attention span such as-a noisy environment, a very boring lecture or meeting, use of modern gadgets such as phones, I pods, the television sets, use of internet and a host of other modern inventions. When this happens, for some people, concentrating on even the simplest task for a few seconds can be agony”, he explained.
An obsession with computer games, social networking sites, phones(texting, pinging and tweeting) is changing the way people’s minds work as constant use may be rewiring the brain, thereby making an individual to concentrate on a task and hence shortening attention span, he said.
The cause of short attention span in adults is quite different from those of children, the reason being that children are naturally young, restless and willing to learn new things all the time. They easily get bored sitting still or to be engaged in a single activity or chore for long, they have to be trained to have long attention spans later in life by their parents. As they become older and more matured, it gets longer,he emphasised.
While some people can tell straight away whether their attention span is long or short, others are not able to majorly because they have not given much thought to it.
The psychologist stated that there are ways to determine if a person’s attention span is low.
“There are tests you can conduct by yourself to determine your attention span such as - whether you get bored or distracted easily, find it difficult to plan and follow through, catch yourself day dreaming, have a knack for noticing details, how often do you interrupt people during conversations, you and on the phone and suddenly your favorite TV show comes on, do you find it difficult to concentrate on the conversation etc. The result of which will go a long way in determining your attention span”, he said.