Students can’t stick with one task for fifteen minutes, study finds

    How long can you focus on one task before your attention takes you somewhere else? A new study tracked students’ every move while they studied – or – supposedly studied.

    Investigators from California State University noted down once a minute what the students were doing as they studied. They checked how many windows were open, if they were chatting, surfing the web, or looking at facebook.

    The students were told beforehand to focus on an important task during this observation period, such as studying, or reading.

    Within 15 minute periods, students only spent only about 65 percent of the observation period actually doing their schoolwork. Lead researcher Larry Rosen said his team was amazed at how frequently the observed students multitasked. He added that it seemed like they could not go for 15 minutes without engaging their devices, something he found “kind of scary.”

    In their weekly conversation, WHYY’s behavioral health reporter Maiken Scott and Dan Gottlieb discuss the study, and what the findings mean for focus and retention.

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