The Future of Attention

You can hear more about my work here:

Ezra Klein show: Tired? Distracted? Burned Out? Listen to This

NPR’s Hidden Brain: Finding Focus

CNN Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Chasing Life podcast: The Distracted Brain

Dan Harris, Ten Percent Happier: The Science of Rescuing Your Attention Span

We have created a digital culture that is just not sustainable: it’s creating stress and exhaustion and it’s hard to focus with all the distractions. I’ve been researching people’s attention when using their computers and phones for over two decades and discovered that our attention spans have declined when we’re on a screen, now down to an average of 47 seconds.  This still astonishes me, and is covered in detail in my book Attention Span (chosen as the best Management/Business book of 2023 by The Globe and Mail).

I am a psychologist by training, and have been a professor at University of California Irvine studying human-computer interaction (how people interact with computers). To study tech use I go to where people are, and so I create “living laboratories” to study how tech has affected our minds, our behavior, and our social relations in our lives. For ten years I have also worked as a researcher at Microsoft Research where I was exposed to mind-blowing technologies that seemed like sci fi. I have published over 200 academic articles and have also done writing for The Wall St Journal Saturday Essay, the Chronicles of Higher Education, and have been on a number of podcasts such as ones hosted by Dax Shepard, The American Psychological Association, Sanjay Gupta, and Ezra Klein. My work has also appeared in the popular media such as the NYT, The Atlantic, The Guardian, CBS Sunday Morning, and many others.

In this newsletter I will cut through the myths and pseudoscience and explain how tech is affecting our lives in ways that really matter to you. I will also present actionable solutions. This newsletter then is really about making sense of our lives and how we can flourish in a world impacted by bytes.

I will present content that addresses questions like:

  • Why do we have so much trouble paying attention?

  • Is multitasking bad for us?

  • How will AI affect our attention and reasoning?

  • What causes technostress?

  • What role do tech companies and algorithms play in reducing our attention spans?

  • How can tech policy help individuals?

I’ll also describe how we can achieve better performance, such as:

  • How we can train our brains to focus better

  • How we can reduce distractions

  • How we can use tech more meaningfully so as to flourish

  • How we can find value in the morass of information that’s out there

  • How we can accomplish lifelong learning

But tech wouldn’t be where it is today without the people behind it. I’ll also present interviews with exceptional people: the inventors and pioneers in tech who influenced you in ways you may not realize such as:

  • The inventor of the cell phone

  • The first person to develop the iphone (hint: it was not Steve Jobs, was not done at Apple, and was invented in 1995)

  • The inventor of the Jitterbug phone and credit card transactions

  • A professor who is a world leader in studying misinformation

  • …and many more fascinating and inspiring individuals who I’ve gotten to know from my years in tech

Last, I will present:

  • Cutting edge research related to psychology and tech. Reading a scientific article can be daunting. But I will do the work for you, to make complex ideas understandable and relatable to you such as explaining what the heck is automatic and controlled processing (which you use every day), executive function (which needs to be in top shape for you to perform well) and work detachment (which can actually help you reattach better to work).

Who is this for?

This newsletter is for business leaders, parents, information workers, students, admins, retail workers, physicians–in short, anyone who wants to learn how to improve their lives with technology.

Why subscribe?

Some of the content will be free, but I will offer a lot of benefits to paid subscribers.

  • First, I will host Zoom meetings with Q&A, where I will discuss and answer your questions about how to improve your attention and performance, lower your stress, and any other questions you might have.

  • Second, I will offer more newsletters and special content on topics like the psychology of motivation, tech policy, online communication, and technostress and will break down the science to make it easily digestible. Third, I will offer advice and solutions on what we can do to retrain our minds so as to have a better relationship with tech.  Last, you’ll have the opportunity to post comments. As a longtime teacher, I care that you learn. I will read your comments and will gear content to your interests.

It won’t cost much to subscribe–as much as a cup of Starbucks coffee, but you will reap much more benefits for your wellbeing than by drinking a Frappuccino.

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How to flourish in the digital age


Gloria Mark has spent over two decades as Professor at UC Irvine, studying how our minds and behavior have changed with the rise of digital media. Her newest book, Attention Span, discusses what we can do about our shrinking attention spans.