The Human Attention Span and the (Too Much) Information Age

Information is everywhere. One is assaulted every moment of every day with advertising, online media, email, broadcast television, radio, and even personal phone calls. We cannot escape it. Does all this information really mean we are retaining more data? Are we learning more because of the ubiquity of resources by which to do so? One could assume the answer is "yes." But, one may be wrong in this assumption.
What’s most interesting about the current informational landscape is that despite a significant increase in available news and information, Americans are still no better informed than they were in much less information-rich times. For instance, a recent Pew Research study indicated that in 2007, 69 percent of Americans could correctly name the vice-president, down from the 74 percent who could in 1989.
So, what’s happening?
First and foremost, people become apathetic in the face of too much information. We just stop actively attempting to process it and it falls flat. And, with so much customizable content available, people can be very selective about what they want to hear/see and can ignore everything else. 

Because of this, there’s actually a far greater likelihood of an individual being less informed as they are not choosing to be exposed to multiple news sources. It makes for a very narrow view and a very limited knowledge base.
Also, acquiring new information requires specific, prolonged focus and an ability to ignore distractions. In our world of media multi-tasking few, if any, are concentrating for long enough on a single subject to make it stick. 

In order to absorb the information contained in a newscast, for example, we must not only direct our attention to the person talking, but also filter out the running headlines, news updates, and financial ticker on the lower part of the screen.
It would seem we’ve come to an age of too much information and this is particularly true for younger people who spend extensive time media multi-tasking. They will have to decide, if, in the future, if the constant barrage of information is worth the forfeiture of true knowledge.

Some studies show that the younger, more technologically savvy generations use their brains in completely different ways than previous generations.  While the jury is still out on the subject and many scientific studies to validate this claim are necessary, the fact is that filtering through the wealth of information is still the reality for everyone involved.

Leave a Reply