Attention Span: Definition & How to Improve

Instructor: Quentin Shires

Quentin has taught psychology and other social science classes at the university level and is considered a doctoral colleague at Capella University.

Learn what an attention span is and how you can improve it with simple mental exercises and lifestyle changes. Also, take a quiz to see if you have what it takes to help improve your child's attention span.

Attention What?

Take a moment to look at your children. How often are they on their smart phones? How long do they spend on social media websites? Does your child complete their homework while watching the television, chatting with friends on Facebook, or listening to music? Your answers to these questions can tell us about your child's attention span. That is, the amount of concentrated time they spend on a task without becoming distracted.

History of Attention Spans

Believe it or not, but Americans' attention spans have changed over the past decade. In 2015, the average amount of concentrated time people spent on a task without becoming distracted was approximately 8.25 seconds. Compare this to the year 2000, where the average attention span was 12 seconds. Where has the 3.75 seconds gone over the past 15 years? The answer is right in front of you: technology and the Internet.

With the increasing use of the Internet over the past 15 years, attention spans have been decreasing dramatically. Seventeen percent of Internet users open a web page for less than four seconds, with the average Internet video lasting only approximately 2.7 minutes.

Be aware that the use of technology has decreased our attention spans over the past 15 years

While 8.25 seconds might still sound okay, it's less than the attention span of a goldfish. You may have heard the myth that a goldfish has an attention span of three seconds. Well, the truth is, researchers have found that goldfish have an attention span of approximately nine seconds, beating their human counterparts by three quarters of a second.

How to Improve an Attention Span

So, how do we increase our attention span to beat that of a goldfish? There are simple mental exercises and lifestyle changes you can make to help improvement in areas such as learning, social responses and time management.

Get Rid of Distractions

For example, maybe your children are struggling in school, and you have noticed their grades are suffering. Chances are they have a short attention span. When monitoring your child's homework, be sure to make their learning area distraction free. Smart phones, computers, televisions, and music, can all play a part in reducing an attention span. Studying in a quiet place with minimal distractions can allow your child to focus on the task at hand. To put this in perspective for you, the average office worker checks their email approximately 30 times in one hour, and the average smart phone user picks up their device 1,500 times per week. This can be distracting!

Working on One Task at a Time

Make sure your children are working on one task at a time. With today's technology, children are used to looking at multiple distractions, while attempting to complete a task. Have you ever noticed your child doing their homework, while watching television, chatting on Facebook and listening to music? Task your child with one activity at a time. This way their attention span can be focused on this solo activity, which helps long-term retention of the information.

Focus and Focus Again

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