|Posted on October 30, 2014 at 4:00 PM|
Written by James Cassels
Don’t worry; chances are you don’t have ADHD, although I’m sure we’ve all diagnosed ourselves with it at some point. This article will take less than 5 minutes to read, yet statistically, people will get bored and move on by the end of the introduction (173 words). Those of you with a greater than average attention span – you’re a dying breed. It's safe to say that attention spans of students are, quite frankly, shocking. I can say from personal experience, and I'm sure you'd agree, that an hour into a Friday afternoon chemistry lesson is more than enough for me, and by an hour and a half, those toxic chemicals are looking like a pretty refreshing drink. But this wasn't always the case. The average attention span currently is somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds, this is about 144 times less than it was 10 years ago . Don't feel too bad though, this is an average, some of you out there might have a truly spectacular attention span of 15 seconds.
Research has shown that the short-term response to the stimulus that has attracted an individual’s attention is only about 8 seconds . A speaker therefore has about 8 seconds to grab their audience’s attention before their minds begin to wander - we've all been there. However, once you have the audience's attention chances are it will only be for a maximum of 20 minutes. What we need to look at is why the average attention span of an American student is less than that of your bog-standard goldfish, and how we can improve it .
It's probably best to start off by telling you the most delicious method to increase attention span, in the hope that somebody out there might actually finish this article. As with everything, it's all down to biochemistry - I can already hear groans. We've all heard the clichéd phrase "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." But actually how important is it? The truth? Very. Short attention spans have been directly linked to low blood sugar levels, so it's what you eat every morning that impacts your willingness to take your own life half-way through quad Maths on a Monday morning . I'm sure lots of you out there will be happy to know that a full English breakfast is one of the healthiest ways to start your day. The bowl of processed cereal that 80% of us start the day with can actually be detrimental to the day ahead . These "volatile sugar bombs" we love to indulge in release short-term boosts of energy, giving us a sort of 'pseudo wakeup'. We need to be eating a protein and carbohydrate (aka. sausage and toast) rich breakfast to give us long lasting sugars to aid attention span.
A less tasty way of fixing our ever-dropping attention spans can be found with a reduced usage of social media and the Internet. It is scientific fact that the young have worse attention spans, often considered to be a result of increased social media use. Most of us have Twitter or Facebook, and I am sure we have all wiled away days of our lives scrolling down the news feed looking for a quick laughter-fix. This shows the average 8-second attention span in action. This 8-second attention has become an important part in our daily lives, even if we cannot see it ourselves. TV shows have become aware of short-term attention spans and are directing their shows accordingly - you will find it hard to count past 10 seconds in a single camera angle in a sitcom! Tailoring to short attention spans is something you can see every day in schools too. A few years ago at Berkhamsted, for instance, we switched from 30-minute periods to 20-minute periods, in order to pack a wider variety of lessons into a single day. This prevented the dreaded 90-minute lesson and was, quite frankly a Godsend, whilst supposedly improving student work ethic during those longer lessons.
Congratulations, those of you who have struggled your way to the end of this article have proven that, in fact, you did not need to read this. Your attention span is obviously far better than that of the average individual who would have stopped reading around about the (off-putting) phrase 'research has shown'. You now know that, come exam revision time, you will be able to train your mind to work longer and more efficiently, and hey, maybe you will go up a grade or two.