Human vs. Goldfish Attention Span

“A goldfish has a longer attention span than a human. The goldfish attention span is nine seconds while a humans average attention span is eight seconds.” Purported the speaker. At that point many fellow attendees at the class gasped in amazement.

As you may know, a speaker uses anecdotes and similes to explain certain concepts in a class or seminar. Often this information is used for its shock value. In marketing it is known as an attention getter or the hook.

After hearing this “fact” there was a gnawing at me to look it up. (After all I like to use the Internet’s superpower for good.) This is likely because I question almost everything that sound wonky to me. Basically anything that I believe might be confabulation or spinning of the truth.

What I found was this study was actually conducted by Microsoft. And it was correct in reporting that the attention span of a human differs from that of a goldfish. But what is not readily shared is that this study was conducted as a means to help advertisers “hook” the customer before the advertisement would be aborted.

The truth is that our brains only take in about 25% of the stimuli that we are subjected to in our daily lives. Additionally, our brains are plastic; meaning that can learn and adapt. (We are still here because of this little fact.) We must block out certain stimuli in order to get things done. Sometimes that means ignoring something like an advertisement or your kid, your parent, or a bug on the dashboard of your car while you are driving.

The truth is that we can still pay attention. We can do it for as long as we choose to do so. But it seems that we have less tolerance for the thousands of ads we are bombarded with each day; which has increased leaps and bounds since the ubiquity of the smart phone.

Moral if it sounds outlandish or silly, it just might be.



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