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Who has a longer attention span? The average adult or a goldfish?

Who has a longer attention span? The average adult or a goldfish?

If your answer is an average adult, then I’m sorry to say that’s not true.

A couple of years ago we did (when we had an attention span of about 12 seconds) but not anymore. Our attention spans have decreased and now a goldfish can pay attention for longer than us!

Originally I had plans to share a longer and more detailed overview of what I learned at the Working Memory Conference in Sydney last week. However, given the fleeting nature of our attention span I thought it may be a better option to write a couple of short and sweet posts that are jam-packed with bite-sized nuggets of information.

Here’re five quick facts from the conference:

  • Sustained attention takes a lot of neural energy. That’s why some kids are so tired at the end of the school day! Let your kids have an attention break at the end of the school day. Don’t jump straight into homework. Have some fun together!


  • The more a student’s working memory is overloaded by too many words, the more inattentive they become. So, talk less and listen more. If your child hasn’t remembered what you’ve said then repeat but don’t elaborate (e.g., don’t add more words to your additional explanation as this will decrease the likelihood that they’ll understand).


  • The presence of even a few symptoms of inattentiveness is viewed as a developmental risk factor (e.g., cannot maintain attention for a long time on a task, easily distracted and gives up easily).


  • Rowe and Rowe’s rule of thumb for inattention and literacy risk (2006). A child is not at risk if the average number of words they can recall is their age in years plus 4 (up to 10). A child is in a high-risk category for literacy if they cannot recall sentences of word length more than their age in years plus 3.


  • Anxiety will reduce your working memory and attention capacity. Anxiety management strategies are important skills for children at risk of learning difficulties to develop early.

Are you interested in learning more? Let me know and I will post more tips and strategies to help next week.

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