Smartphones Have Turned Us into Goldfish

Campus Change Report
During the first years of the millennium, our concentration has shortened. This is why digital natives learn by doing rather than cramming.

Concentration of a human in 2000: 12 s
Concentration of a human in 2013: 8 s
Concentration of a goldfish: 9 s

Goldfish have long endured being the stereotype of short attention spans. The concentration of a goldfish is 9 seconds. Thanks to smart devices, yours is one second shorter.

During the first years of the millennium, our concentration has shortened. This is why digital natives learn by doing rather than cramming.A fresh study made by Microsoft shows how human concentration was a fantastic 12 seconds even in 2000, but since the spread of smart devices, it has dropped to 8 seconds. Half of all people between the ages of 18-24 fiddle with their smartphones more than every half hour. Popularity of books have crashed: based on american studies, almost a fourth haven't read a single book during the course of one year. In 1978, 92% of the responders had read at least one book.


Being exhausted can be life-threatening

Taking care of many things at once, “multitasking”, is not taking care of things at the same time at all, but jumping from one mission to another. Bumping around weakens the memory and learning ability. If you try to concentrate knowing that there is an unread mail in the next browser window, your IQ can decrease momentarily as much as 10 points.

At it's worst, lack of concentration might lead to death: according to one study, texting while driving is responsible for more fatal accidents in teenagers than alcohol.

Change might not be that bad after all

Don´t worry quite yet. The shortening of our concentration spans is related to a new way of handling information and there is no return to the world of less networking. The same goes for schools that are traditionally used to teach students who receive knowledge passively.

The behavioural science institute of Helsinki University is coordinating the Mind the Gap project, which studies the gap between schools' learning policies and the individual learning cultures of the digital natives. The purpose isn't to get the students to close their smartphones, but to make school environments more committed.

“Youngsters are not anxious about the flood of information, but are actually surfing on the crest of a wave. Except in schools, where they are forced to listen”, comments Kirsti Lonka, the professor leading the project.

Many young people are better at controlling their use of technology than adults. While having a burger with friends, they might put their smartphones aside by stacking them all up as a pile on the table. Smartphones should not be confiscated in school but be used as learning tools.



In Partnership with

Otava Hundred