Attention Span - Deepstash
Attention Span

Melva Bintang's Key Ideas from Attention Span
by Gloria Mark

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Quick questions: How many times did you pick up your phone today? Or how many times did you get distracted while doing something? 

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Declining Attention Spans in The Digital Age

Declining Attention Spans in The Digital Age

The digital world instructs our attention like no other human invention before. The consequence changed the way we live, work, and think. Gloria has studied people’s relationships with digital technology as long as it existed. Here’s what the research found: 

In 2004, on average. Workplace employees spend about 3 minutes on a task before switching to another. On the computer, they switch from one website to another every 2,5 minutes. In 2021, people hit attention every 47 seconds. Most people do this because of boredom.

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Once people get interrupted, it takes 25 minutes to get back to their original task. Our brains are good at dealing with multitasking & attention-shifting. However, if we do this every time, it takes a bit of our mental energy, and it leads to exhausted and stressed feelings. 

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The rhythms of attention

What is attention?

Psychologists define it as the ability to process certain things in our environments while excluding others consciously. The attention system consists of various networks that sustain different tasks. 

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<p>There are four types of att...

There are four types of attention based on how engaged and challenged we are by the objects of our attention. 

  • Focus: Highly engaged and highly challenged
  • Rote state: Highly engaged but not all challenged.
  • Bored state: Not engaged and not challenged
  • Frustrated: Not engaged but highly challenged

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Every attentional state has its purpose and value. To achieve more, you don’t have to push yourself to be focused all the time; playing candy crus is also good for you. For most people, the highest focus is at 11 am and again at 3 pm—the boredom peaks shortly after lunch. We need to learn to flow with our natural rhythms of attention. 

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The hidden costs of distraction and multitasking

When people are frequently interrupted by such distractions, they report more frustration, pressure, and stress. The surprising fact is that people interrupt themselves almost as often as they are interrupted by outside forces. 

Researchers found that people switch their attention 44% of the time without any visual trigger. The more we are interrupted from the outside, the more we start interrupting ourselves. In contrast, the interruption can also benefit us. It gives our mind a little break from our hard work, causes lingering emotions, and uses cognitive resources.

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“This means there might be some truth to the old trope that women are better at multitasking. But don’t fool yourself: the percentage of supertaskers who can multitask without sacrificing mood and performance points is tiny. “ 

Multitasking takes a lot of resources. However, straining to resist distractions can use up resources. Self-control is a skill that is needed at this moment. Self-control is like a muscle; using it too often eventually becomes too weak to function.

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Surviving the attention economy

The internet is everywhere today. The network structure perfectly mimics the structure of our minds. The curiosity by following associative connections, much as we do when mind-wandering on our own. Companies use algorithms to collect data about themselves to predict what links will get us to click. Social media companies also have an interest in keeping us scrolling, 

Such fast-paced video content has been shown to increase our heart rates and drain our cognitive resources. When taking control of our attention, we’re up against some powerful forces. 

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Reclaiming your attention

Quick questions: How much control do we have if companies are so good at manipulating our online choices? 

We need to develop meta-awareness of our digital behavior. It means recognizing our habits, understanding what forces are trying to manipulate our attention, and learning which distraction we are worst at resisting. 

We can train this awareness by asking the right questions, such as, “What will I gain there?” 

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The more often you ask these questions, the easier they’ll come to you next time. Remember: Self-regulation is like a muscle. Knowing this, you can structure your day to complete your most complex tasks during peak focus. 

Once we understand our behavior, we can leverage our new kinetic attention to our advantage. 

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IDEAS CURATED BY

melvabintangg

A learner | Writer of Melva's Note on Substack | High curiosity about psychology and human development.

CURATOR'S NOTE

Our bond with our digital devices is unbreakable; we’re jumping in front of screens, from one app to another. This behavior shortened our attention spans, and we feel more stressed than ever, There are tons of notifications dropping every few minutes, and companies are preying on our most primitive desires. Yet, disconnecting from this phenomenon is impossible - at least if we want to keep our job or have a social life. Gloria Mark, Ph.D., breaks down how the digital age has changed the nature of our attention based on her research on behavioral science.

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