The thesis of Johann Hari’s bestselling 2022 book Stolen Focus is that tech companies—via the internet, smartphones, and social media—are wrecking our attention spans. Hari argues that Facebook, Apple, and all the rest, in their deliberate attack on our ability to concentrate, are doing huge damage to the human species.
In this episode of The Studies Show, Tom and Stuart (whose microphone sounds a bit odd this week - sorry about that!) discuss the data on whether people’s attention spans are getting shorter, ask whether there’s evidence people are too distracted to finish tasks—such as writing podcast descriptions—that they’ve started, and
The Studies Show is sponsored by Works in Progress, the online magazine about science, technology, and human progress. Find all their deeply-researched, beautifully-written essays about ideas that have changed, and will change, the world right here at this link.
The Studies Show is also supported by the i, a snappy, non-partisan UK newspaper for people with open minds. You can get a money-off deal on your digital subscription—which includes full access to all Stuart’s science writing—by following this special podcast link.
Pre-order Pete Etchells’s book Unlocked: The Real Science of Screen Time (and how to spend it better)
“You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish”, apparently
Just watch this video. No spoilers.
The lizardman’s constant is 4%
2021 Cyberpsychology meta-analysis on cognitive control and multitasking
50% of people think tech is ruining people’s attention spans
Satirical study from 2020 on the addiction to “spending time with friends”
One of Matthew Sweet’s Twitter investigations of Johann Hari’s references
Stuart’s look at some of the other studies cited in the book
The Studies Show is produced by Julian Mayers at Yada Yada Productions.