How to get a better attention span than a goldfish

This article in the Independent suggests that human beings now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.

(In fact the research shows that you’re probably skipping this sentence because that first one was about the length that we’re now able to concentrate. I’ll press on anyway.)

This kind of research is all very well, and certainly entertaining in its headline. But it’s rather gross in its assumptions. What’s clear is that for all sorts of reasons, mainly to do with how we consume information, the ability to focus on large quantities of written material has declined rapidly. But our attention span, and our ability to absorb information, is heavily determined by the media we’re presented with. Researchers like Richard Mayer have shown over many decades that if you combine media in certain ways you can retain peoples’ attention and increase absorption significantly. This is one reason why infographics have become so popular: they combine limited text and attractive graphics in ways that entice people to stick with it just a few second longer.

And we would say that wouldn’t we, because our business is producing animation which, as Mayer and countless others have shown, is a great way to keep eyeballs pointed in the right direction and brain cells humming.

But of course things change. The Independent article makes the important point that as people get accustomed to particular media or devices, they give them less time and attention. So as animators we’re going to have to keep working hard to think of new ways of combining media to produce work that is surprising, fresh and impactful.