Human Attention Span outlasts Goldfish.

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Production Points

It is a blatantly false narrative that, in recent years, human attention spans have been declining to the point that the average goldfish has a longer attention span.

It is a made-up number. (See reference at the end of the article.)

For some reason, we see the general drop in the length of time someone spends on a video as an example of a decreasing attention span. But it is really about people getting particularly good at determining if a video is relevant to their needs.


And if it were true that attention spans were getting shorter, how do you explain the success of Netflix or Amazon Prime? If you like the show or find it relevant, you hang in there for hours, if not days.

And that is the key to a successful video on social media: Is it relevant to what your viewer is looking for, whether it be information, entertainment, or a “how-to”?


If irrelevant, it only takes your viewer a few seconds to decide that’s the case and flip to the next item in the feed. We are just becoming particularly good at making quick decisions on content relevancy.

It has little to do with attention spans.

It is especially true for newsfeeds on platforms like LinkedIn. Mostly, people are looking for content that relates to their work world. Since they are likely at work (or home working), they only have a little time to spend on non-relevant content.

So, when you look at your video numbers and see video views drop off dramatically after five seconds, there are really only two general reasons for this: it’s not relevant to the viewer, or the video is so poorly constructed they don’t realize the content is relevant.

If the video is a pitch, it will likely be flipped through without much thought. No one likes to be sold to unless they want to buy.


The best videos provide information on a relevant topic to your viewer. For example, if it deals with a significant pain point for your viewer, they will hang in there. The video should take the viewer along a sales funnel to show how it solves a specific issue.

You cannot blame it on short attention spans if you go off that path. Instead, you need to look at the video and see if it is as relevant as you might think it is or as straightforward as you need it to be.

As for goldfish, they have excellent memories.

Neuropsychologists use them to study memory formation. Their memory has been studied since the early 1900s. As a result, their study has become a model for studying the process of learning and memory formation.

Furthermore, my goldfish watch Netflix!




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