You Have 8 Seconds...
Posted on July 26, 2016

I love the odd bits of information that research sends our way, even as I cannot
comprehend how they are discovered. For example, how do they (whoever that is) know that the average human attention span is 8 seconds, less than that of a goldfish.

I looked at the goggle-eyed fish in the tank in my dentist’s office and tried to comprehend how to capture their attention. Then I counted off 8 seconds and tried to marshal a thought to fit that time span. I had no more success doing that. Stymied!

However, I did return to thinking about the world of advertising as it tries to catch our attention before it drifts off to the next thing. I wondered about split-screen news media and banner headlines beneath differing activity. Then I considered the challenges facing any public speaker who is trying to convey ideas. He or she has 8 seconds to make an impression, it seems.

I remembered the line from HAMLET that muses: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Aha, that is the rub, as Shakespeare would also say. Thinking does require a longer time span. It asks us to focus, hear, ruminate and then retain. That is hard work. Are we willing to invest energy in it?

In these lazy days of summer, by what quirk do our political conventions gather to choose their candidates and anoint them for our consideration? Would they do better at a more energizing time of the year? Since it seems some of the candidates have been campaigning forever do we even have 8 seconds left to rethink the issues they propose?

I thank Microsoft’s research for this timely tidbit and I am delighted not to be a speech writer with ideas to set forth. I also offer my sympathetic understanding to clergymen everywhere who are working on sermons. We not-quite-goldfish in the pews are a challenge, aren’t we?


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