Does looking at screens reduce our brain function?

Young female looking at her phone.
Young female looking at her phone. Photo credit Getty Images

With humans spending more time in front of screens than ever before in the history of the world, some are beginning to wonder if the advancement in technology is having an impact on our cognitive function.

Among those raising the alarm is Dr. Gloria Mark, the author of the recently published “Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity.”

Mark, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, spoke with KCBS Radio about her book and what she found delving into the impacts screens have on us.

Mark’s book has more than two decades of research behind it, and the author shared that she can see through her data that our “attention spans have diminished.”

“I’ve been tracking attention spans objectively since 2003. Back then, we found the average attention span to be about 2 and a half minutes on a screen before switching, which astonished me at the time,” Mark said. “In more recent years, we find that the average is 47 seconds.”

While many might ask where this creates a cause for concern, Mark says that as attention spans have gone down, things like anxiety and stress have gone up.

As technology has continued to become more of our everyday lives, phones most notably, Mark shared that culture has begun to adapt, with people having an almost “automatic tendency to just reach for [their] phones.”

With technology allowing us to be more active and involved than ever before, Mark notes that we are becoming worn out quicker.

“The result is that we’re getting exhausted. We’re getting stressed,” Mark said. “The faster we switch our attention from one thing to another, one task to social media back to another task. The more attentional resources it uses up.”

What’s even worse is that Mark says we don’t have an endless supply of these “attentional resources,” but we interact with things as if we do.

“We have a limited capacity of attentional resources,” Mark said. “We use them if we need to focus on a task, but they drain away when we are switching our attention, and we have to keep reorienting to the task at hand. We’re not very efficient at using these very precious and limited attentional resources.”

Marks shared a few ways to restructure how we use our attentional resources in her interview with KCBS. Listen to the podcast here for more:

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images