Human Attention Span shorter than a Goldfish

According to the National Center for Biotechnology information the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. The average attention span of a human being, however, has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015. This is not the only change in human behavior. 25% of the teens forget major details of close friends and relatives and 7% of the people forget their birthdays from time to time (statistic brain research institute, 2015).

Research showed that Canadians with more digital lifestyles struggle to remain focus for extended periods of time, in the long-term. This is because of the thrill of finding something new. While connecting consumers are jumping from one experience into another the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. This neurotransmitter makes them feel rewarded (Gausby, 2015).

This only happens in the long-term. Early adopters and heavy social media users have more intermittent bursts of high attention. Therefore, tech adoption and social media usage is training consumers to become better at processing and encoding information through short bursts of high attention. Consumers are able to do more with less through higher bursts of attention and more efficient encoding to memory (Gausby, 2015).

Multi-screening also impacts consumers. It trains them to be less effective at filtering out distractions because they are seeking for the trill of finding something new (Gausby, 2015).

Our shrinking attention span and the trill of finding something new is especially important for marketers. They need to find ways to grab the attention of a consumer and to keep it long enough to get their message across. It takes 10 seconds for a consumer to decide whether they will stay on the webpage or not (Conner, 2015). Therefore, it is important to eliminate distraction and stick to the main message. Moving and rich media ads help to capture attention and to improve engagement. This is also shown in the figure below.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 15.43.44

Shifting between different tasks and thereby demanding different cognitive skills also helps to capture attention. Multi-screening behavior plays an important role in shifting tasks. Research has shown that multi-screen environments do not only improve overall attention, but hat they also improve emotional connection and encoding to memory. While consumers are looking at there mobile phone (rather then television), they are still responding to auditory cues, like laughing at jokes. Also ‘calls to action’ within content were effective in encouraging consumers to look up at key moments. While consumers may not be watching they are likely listening (Gausby, 2015).

In order to fulfill the thrill of something new it is also good to encourage consumers to seek out additional content on other devices, for example a website.

Technology introduces some challenges but is not a threat or problem for marketers. Digital media consumption is a given, multi-screening increases, social media becomes integrated in different ways, and consumers continue to adopt new technologies. This is not only happening in the young generation, but in the entire population (Gausby, 2015).

Therefore, it is important for brands to find different, more creative and increasingly immersive ways to market themselves and engage with consumers.


Connor, M. (2015), ‘The vanishing attention span of consumers’. [online] Infographic. Availablet at: [Accessed 29 September 2015].

Gausby, A. (2015), ‘Attention Spans’, Consumer Insides Microsoft Canada, Spring 2015.

Statistic Brain Research Insitute (2015), ‘Attention span statistics’, [online]. Availble at: [Accessed 29 September 2015].


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