Microsoft has released a digital media “Attention Spans Report” which was conducted on the company’s behalf by Sparkler – a brand consultancy.
Microsoft surveyed 2,000 people and used electroencephalograms (EEGs) to monitor the brain activity of another 112 in the study, which sought to determine the impact that pocket-sized devices and the increased availability of digital media and information have had on our daily lives.
The 2,000 respondents to the online survey were divided into three equal-sized groups: low, medium, and high attention, each representing one third of the sample.
The Attention Spans report states that 86 per cent of consumers use multi-screen when watching TV, playing computer games or browsing the internet, and attempts to classify people into groups depending on how they deal with multiple media devices.
The researchers clocked that over a decade, the average human attention span has dropped 25% from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 and is now 1 second less than the attention span of a goldfish.
Even though our attention spans have been reduced by devices, those very gadgets have also improved our ability to multitask. According to the report, those participants who lived a more digital lifestyle are “better at simultaneously processing information from different sources.”
Owen Sagness, UK Ggeneral manager for Microsoft Advertising and Online, said;
Consumer use of digital technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, creating both opportunities and challenges for advertisers. Our study indicates that people are adapting their attention skills according to a broad range of demographic and lifestyle factors, such as age, vocation or time of day.
As consumers shift their behaviour to handle multiscreen environments, agencies too must shift their approach to audience engagement. Understanding different audience segments and how their attention spans impact their interaction with advertising is key.
As part of the report, Microsoft identified three personalities to categorise how people interact with digital media. These are the Attention Ninja, the Attention Pragmatist and the Attention Ambidextrous.
According to the report, an attention ninja is someone who compartmentalises tasks by doing separate things on different devices, while an attention ambidextrous performs multiple tasks on the same device, and an attention pragmatist combines the traits of the previous two.
Microsoft theorized that the changes were a result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time and a weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet.