The brain hasn’t caught up with modern technology

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Imagine a world where anything a person needed or wanted to know was available within a half second.

Don’t think too long about that world, because we already live in it. For example, Google will return 2.7 million results on “The Persian Empire” in 0.35 seconds. The logistics of that are staggering, and the access to information is invaluable, but is the “one click away” world of daily online interaction damaging the human attention span? Some recent information has revealed that it certainly isn’t helping.

The Daily Mail recently reported that the average person switches between devices – a computer, a smartphone and a tablet – around 21 times an hour according to a recent survey conducted by advertisement researchers. Harvard School Business Historian Nancy Koehn maintains that our average attention span is now down to eight seconds – one second less than that of the average goldfish.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Consider the numerous stimuli of an ordinary office. There are multiple telephones ringing throughout the day, computers at every desk and cell phones in every pocket. Depending on one’s line of work, there might also be a second phone or walkie-talkie.

At home, there is almost always a television droning on in the background in addition to the cell phones, tablets and computers most people interact with on a daily basis. Over time, it is not hard to see why people can struggle to focus.

The Huffington Post recently reported that the human brain might adapt to the Internet the same way it adapts to any other addictive habit. The article stated that findings from a 2011 study showed frequent online users suffering from symptoms of withdrawal, both mentally and physically, after abstaining from the Internet for a day.

Like anything else, experts suggest moderation is key. Mixing social media and Netflix binge-watching with the occasional nature walk could have a positive impact on the brain’s ability to maintain steady focus.