"Attention span halved in a decade, from 12 to 5 minutes, spelling trouble for doctors and patients"

From the WSJ:

Our average attention span halved in a decade, from 12 to five minutes. To combat this, a "museum intervention" is now mandatory at Yale's School of Medicine for all first-year medical students. Called Enhancing Observational Skills, the program asks students to look at and then describe paintings—not Pollocks and Picassos but Victorian pieces, with whole people in them. The aim? To improve diagnostic knack.

The Waterseller of Seville, 1618-1622, Oil on canvas. This is not considered an example of the "Victorian pieces" mentioned in the WSJ article. Image source: Wikipedia, public domain.

Each student is assigned a painting which they examine for 15 minutes, recording all they see. Then the group discusses its observations.

"We are trying to slow down the students. They have an urge to come up with a diagnosis immediately and get the right answer."

The study did not provide a huge improvement in the diagnostic acumen though. After the completion of the study project, the medical students were 10% more effective at diagnosis. Nonetheless, the program has now expanded to more than 20 U.S. medical schools. The evidence behind this intervention is not very convincing.


Reviving the Art of Observation | Marvels - WSJ, 2012 http://goo.gl/iOhAV

Comments from Google Plus and Twitter:

Dr John Weiner @AllergyNet: Soon to become 140 characters? MT @DrVes: "Attention span halved in a decade, from 12 to 5 minutes” goo.gl/fb/818DN

andrew murphy, md @PAallergy: @DrVes took to long for me to read that story : )

Mike Moore: Interesting. What's the reference for "Attention span halved in a decade, from 12 to 5 minutes"

Ves Dimov, M.D.: The reference is the text: "Our average attention span halved in a decade, from 12 to five minutes, according to a study commissioned by Lloyds TSB Insurance. (And that was in 2008.)" I haven't checked the source beyond the referenced WSJ article in this case.

Mike Moore: Sorry, that was a bit of a rhetorical question. This is the best I could find, it doesn't appear to be an actual published study... http://www.insurance.lloydstsb.com/personal/general/mediacentre/homehazards_pr.asp

Mike Moore: Even better, here is an analysis of when the "data" was initially released in 2008. http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.com/2008/11/spooky-case-of-disappearing-crap.html [The link to David Moxon, the "researcher" who was commissioned by Lloyds to do the study is now dead, replaced with a generic landing page. I guess he doesn't do "Psychological Research" anymore.]

CMDoran @TheFebrileMuse: Yes, phones may be a part of this? very distracting..

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