BLOG

ARE WE ALL DESTINED TO HAVE 30 SECOND ATTENTION SPANS?

ARE WE ALL DESTINED TO HAVE 30 SECOND ATTENTION SPANS?

The truth is, most of us don’t like sitting around doing nothing.

Or, to put this another way, most of us find it very difficult to do nothing, without something on which to focus our attention.

No great surprise you may think but interesting nonetheless to see this confirmed by research conducted by the University of Virginia, results of which have been published in a recent edition of Science (see here for details:

You can read the article here

Researchers conducted a number of studies to test the extent to which people of different ages, either in controlled conditions or at home, could spend time doing nothing.

The results overwhelmingly show that most people found it almost impossible, even for relatively short periods of time, such as less than 15 minutes.

Participants in a number of tests were placed in a room for between 6 and 15 minutes with no phones, TV, radios or reading materials and then asked how they had enjoyed the experience.

Results from initial studies, which showed college students did not enjoy doing nothing, were backed up by further studies involving participants aged between 18 and 77 and from a variety of backgrounds. Neither age nor background seemed to affect the findings: most people do not enjoy or find it easy to sit still with only their own minds for company. We tend to think of teenagers having the worst attention spans, but this suggests that older people may be just the same in this regard.

In further tests, participants were asked to spend time alone with their thoughts at home. Most reported back to the researchers that they had been unable to do so and ‘cheated’ by picking up their phones or getting up from their chairs. In other words, doing nothing is no more fun or easier at home than it is in a research laboratory.

In the most bizarre finding, 12 out of 18 male participants that were given access to a self-administered, mild electric shock chose to give themselves the shock.

"What is striking," the investigators write, "is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid."

So what does all this mean? Are we simply hard-wired to be engaged with the world? Or has modern life so deteriorated our attention-spans that sitting still for 5 minutes has become impossible?

Psychologist Timothy Wilson who led the research has argued that smart-phone addiction merely reflects our need for stimuli rather than exacerbating it. But I’m not so sure. We can boil this down to a simple question – is it a natural state of affairs to sit in a chair and do nothing, no TV, no books, no phone, no conversation…just nothing. This research certainly suggests it is no longer natural for many people.

Those of you that struggle with meditation may understand this. Learning meditation, if nothing else, is an exercise in understanding just how difficult it is to sit still and do nothing, even for just a few minutes.

But the notable thing in these experiments is that the participants were NOT asked to meditate. They were asked simply to relax without external stimuli, meaning they could day-dream and contemplate to their hearts content.

It may not come naturally to us to sit with a still and equanimous mind for long periods of time. Indeed, it will probably take a lot of training to teach ourselves how to do this.

But it surely does come naturally to everyone to be able to entertain ourselves with our minds for a few minutes.

The fact that participants found even this so difficult suggests to me that our attention-spans are indeed being eroded, often to an unnatural extent. The constant need for an external stimulus also points to the fact that many people experience chaotic minds that are constantly racing.

The lack of internal quiet becomes a vicious cycle. If your mind is constantly racing, you are more likely to seek constant stimulus to distract you. By doing so, you risk reducing your attention-span and exacerbating your lack of internal quiet. Most of us are, to some extent, trapped in this cycle.

The first step in addressing this is realizing it is happening. Awareness and a sense of perspective is key. The next step is understanding that solutions, proven solutions do exist. The third is taking a proactive move to do something about it. Taking responsibility, in other words.

Needless, to say mindfulness is one of the tools available to us all.

What do you think?

Share this post

LEAVE A REPLY

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

Comments

 
No comments yet
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Tuesday, 16 October 2018
If you'd like to register, please fill in the username and name fields.

Captcha Image

clearmind-sleep-shop

Need help sleeping?

 

Download Sue Beer’s guided hypnotherapy to help push you off to sleep.

Buy on iTunes Buy on Amazon
clearmind-stress-shop

Want help de-stressing?

 

Download Sue Beer’s soothing guided hypnotherapy to calm and relax your mind.

Buy on iTunes Buy on Amazon

SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Please leave us your email address so we can keep you updated
on our latest events, promotions and training opportunities.

We promise not to bombard you with daily information but will just aim
to keep you posted on the really important stuff!

 

JOIN US

clearmind-facebook clearmind-twitter clearmind-google
 

Hello and welcome to the Clearmind Company

Please leave us your email address so we can
keep you updated on our latest events, promotions
and training opportunities.

We promise not to bombard you with daily
information but will just aim to keep you posted on the
really important stuff!