Same time, same text, how long can you pay attention? Let’s do the test

In terms of this week’s topic about attention, and the blog task, I have created a small test with my friend, a 24-year-old guy, to see how long he can pay attention to the main task while there are distractions around.


The test I did was based on my own experience of multi-tasking while studying. For the main task, I asked him to read a piece of writing to catch the main idea as fast as possible. For the distractions, laptop screen playing his favourite movie, while I was playing game on his phone. When done, he had to report how much he absorbed. However, before doing the real test, I had him (fully concentrated) read a piece of writing with similar length, as fast as possible, so that I could evaluate the time he need to read. We switched positions after he finished the task, so at the end, I can compare our attention span.

So, finally, this is the pages he had to readIMG_0720.JPG


This is he trying to focus so not to lose me.

And this is movie I played when he was reading


Two and a half men, season1

I turned on the movie 10 seconds after he started reading. In general, he still got the main idea of the text, using the same amount of time as he reads without distraction, which is 5 minutes. He, in fact, has pretty slow reading speed. I was pretty amazed OF how he could be able to skim and understand the main idea while the movie is on and volume was high. However, there are a couple of details that he got wrong, such as “The Chautauqua”, was a public speaker, mistaken as a public speaking class. In addition, he couldn’t tell the further specific details, data mentioned in the text. He also admitted that he was distracted twice, means he stopped reading, focused on the sound and glanced at the laptop. The first time was in the third minute. What’s good was he could switch his attention very fast from the text to the movie and vice versa, I guess this is why he did not take more time to read.

I, on the other hand, can be able to read quickly. However, I can be easily distracted. With the same length of text, normally, I need two minutes to read, to skim, can and understand. The movie was played 10 seconds after I started. Since then, my attention was split into two, which means I did not fully pay attention to neither of these but 50-50. The result was not surprised. Before background noise, I could tell exactly what was written, but after background noise, I could not remember or understand and idea or detail in the text.

Multimedia has gone viral. It appears in every activity of our lives, from working to relaxing. It plays a vast role in today’s multi-tasking, take for example, using laptop during lecture, a very common thing that can be seen everywhere. Some find it okay, some do not, but is multi-screening really okay, while research shows that it decline our attention span. I am an example of multi-screening person as I enjoy it, however, after this test, I will think again about it.



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