Although the “millennial” generation remains a loose concept without a precise definition, criticising young people’s lifestyles, spending habits, political views, and relationships to technology is as popular as ever, and the age-old eye roll at the “new generation” has never been stronger. In fact, recent research may indicate that the brains of millennials could be wired differently, due to their use of modern technology and their lifestyle habits.
Much of this research is pessimistic about the millennial mind. A 2015 report by the Consumer Insights team of Microsoft Canada appeared to indicate that the average human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish, down to just a pitiful 8 seconds compared to the goldfish’s 9 seconds. This was immediately picked up on by the media, and smartphones were given the blame. However, all is not as it seems. For a start, the figures on human attention span that were so widely reported may not have come from Microsoft Canada at all, but from another, more dubious organisation with vague sources for their figures.
Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, wholeheartedly disagrees with the idea that attention spans have been getting shorter. In her opinion, the idea of an “average attention span” is fairly useless. “It’s very much task-dependent. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.” Furthermore, the very notion that there exists an average length of time for which an individual can concentrate even on a specific task has been disproved. Interestingly, there appears to be no evidence that goldfish possess a particularly short attention span either. Moreover, Microsoft has found that millennials have an increased capacity for multitasking compared to the older generations, a development which seems to be driven by modern use of technology.
Applicants for Experimental Psychology or PBS and those interested in Neuroscience should consider the potential impact of how we use technology on our mental habits and patterns of brain activity, and think about how tests could be carried out to observe this.
- Medicine, Maths, and Economics Puzzles We asked three of our top Medicine, Maths, and... Read more >
- Cambridge college snapshots Despite having a smaller number of colleges than Oxford, each of... Read more >
- Cambridge Law Test mini mock paper & answers If you are applying to do Law at Cambridge, chances... Read more >
- Personal Statement Action Plan: Section 1 of 2 The UCAS personal statement will be a key part of... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge Access Schemes Oxford and Cambridge aim to offer places to the best... Read more >
- Download an Economics Personal Statement 2 “Beyond this essential interest in the subject, I find that... Read more >
- Cambridge Law Test overview If you’re applying to read Law at Cambridge you will probably need... Read more >
- Music Scholarships There is a wide range of musical scholarships available to... Read more >
- February’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- The Differences Between Similar Courses At Oxford and Cambridge For some applicants, deciding between applying to Oxford or Cambridge... Read more >
- How is the BMAT marked? The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is marked significantly differently from... Read more >
- Personal Statement Workbook Download A personal statement is a unique document which is all... Read more >
- Download a Philosophy Personal Statement “Philosophy of the mind is my particular interest, especially the... Read more >
- Physical, Mathematical & Chemical Sciences Reading Lists If you’re applying for Physics, Natural Sciences (P), Maths, Computer... Read more >
- Download a Law Personal Statement “Participating in a Citizenship Foundation Mock Trial Competition during Year... Read more >
- PAT mini mock paper & answers The Physics Aptitude Test or PAT is required by Oxford... Read more >
- June’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- PPE: answer like a pro If you’re applying for Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) or... Read more >
- Stats report: our annual survey Every year, we survey hundreds of applicants who applied the... Read more >
- Is Oxbridge right for me? Have you asked yourself why you are planning to apply... Read more >
- MLAT overview If you’re applying for Modern Languages, or their joint schools, you... Read more >
- Download a Physics Personal Statement “Over the past few years I have become gradually more... Read more >
- Law Reading List Cambridge Law and Oxford Law reading lists and recommended reading. Read more >
- Oxbridge Open Day Guide With open days drawing ever nearer, applicants and parents alike... Read more >