Can Attention Really Get More Diluted?

November 22, 2009

According to the most recent Three Screen report from Nielsen 57% of Americans use TV and the Internet simultaneously. This may sound like just another media factoid until you realize media-multitaskers suck at media-multitasking.

In a recent Stanford University study researchers found media-multitaskers cannot process more than one information string at a time.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

Even when people aren’t consuming more than one media, they admit to being less than focused. A 2007 MRI study reported “34.7% of TV viewers and 16.5% of radio listeners report being “very focused” while using these media – compared with 54.6% for internet users, 50.0% for newspaper readers and 41.8% for magazine readers.”

What does this mean to marketers? More media touchpoints don’t necessarily mean a better chance of getting a consumer’s attention, and exposure metrics like GRPs, impressions, and views need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

If most people aren’t very attentive to the content they’re consuming, just how attentive can they be to your advertising?

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