I just came back from a safety conference where one of the presenters stated that humans have an attention span of 8 seconds – less than that of a goldfish. While this is a vivid and easy to remember statistic that many presenters and media sources like to repeat, it is not proven and there seems to be little to no evidence backing it up.
If you think about it, imagine what we would be like if we really only could pay attention for 8 seconds. Our training classes would be chaotic! While I agree 100% that it is important to include as many opportunities as possible for trainees to be involved during training to help keep them involved and focused, I don’t think we have to worry about people zoning out every 8 seconds. The original source of the goldfish story has not been backed up. More recent studies show much more interesting data pointing out that 1) we don’t have shorter attention spans than goldfish* (usually attributed to the increased use of technology), 2) we are becoming better at multi-tasking (thanks to technology) and 3) our attention spans are actually evolving and learning to be more selective. I am sure you can relate to this as well as I can. We are flooded with information so if you are like me, you will see something and quickly decide if it’s worth your attention before moving to the next thing. In these cases, I am sure my attention span is less than 3 seconds! There is so much coming at us from every direction, we need to be able to limit our focus to a few seconds so that we can focus longer on what’s important.
One important thing I’d like to point out is the overuse of the whole goldfish and attention span story. Even though the original goldfish story was published by Microsoft in 2015 and is still quoted as fact every day in 2019, it has not been backed up by science. In fact, there are dozens of more recent reports that have debunked the goldfish attention span myth. Telling and re-telling the goldfish story is in effect, fake news. As trainers, we need to check and re-check the stories and statistics such as this before we teach them to others as “the way it is.” The goldfish attention span story is relatively harmless but it’s an example of how something can so easily perpetuate. Going past the first page of Google search results can often show facts, research and opinions that differ from the more popular ones being quoted by everyone else. A few resources to check your information, plus a few links about the goldfish attention span story are below. I hope you can come to your own conclusions and keep an open mind in the future.
PS – If you got this far, your attention span is definitely longer than 8 seconds!
Note: The lowly goldfish actually has a much longer attention span than 8 seconds and goldfish researchers take offense at this poor little guy being used as the poster child for poor attention spans. If you are really interested in goldfish attention spans, the research studies are available online.
Halloween stores pop up all over the country and many stores temporarily dedicate multiple aisles to halloween decorations, candy and costumes. Many of these items can be great props for use in safety training classes and activities. For some ideas on how to take advantage of Halloween sales (especially in the days following October 31st), check out our FREE Halloween and Safety Training guide! Happy Halloween!
For our full guide on Halloween and Safety Training, Click Here.
I just read it’s #NationalAppleDay! I remember a Bible school teacher cutting an apple in half as part of a lesson and I remember learning about an apple falling on Newton’s head which led him to come up with the law of gravity – in both cases an image or prop really helped with what someone was trying to teach me since I still remember it many years later. Always try to think how you can create a mental image to share with your trainees when trying to get a concept or new idea across. Do you have any other “apple” ideas to share?
Check out this and other posts, plus other safety training resources at https://safetyfundamentals.com/blogs/news
Have you heard of the Feynman Technique? If you want to learn something – really learn something – the 4 steps proposed by Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize winning physicist, can help. The 4 basics steps of the Feynman Technique are shown below but in a nutshell, they are: 1) Pick a concept and write it out as if you were explaining it to a child (no big, hairy technical words or jargon); 2) identify areas where you had trouble explaining the concept. This is where there are gaps in your knowledge. Go back and find the information you need and study it so that you can now explain that information to an 8 year old; 3) organize your notes and organize them into a story that is again, simple and easy to understand. If there are still confusing parts, go back and rewrite your summary story; 4) Tell someone else about it. A good way to see if you really understand something is to try to explain it to someone else. (We can use this last step in safety training – more on that in tomorrow’s post). Take a look at the infographic below which summarizes a description of the Feynman technique that was originally posted on the Farnham Street blog. What do you want to learn next? Can you try the Feynman Technique and see if it works?
Fire Prevention Week just ended but many safety and health professionals pay extra attention to fire prevention for the whole month of October. A put together a collection of fire safety training activities that I sell on my website but for a limited time, I am offering a free download of this ebook in honor of fire safety month. If you have not taken advantage of this offer yet, click here to get your free download. (I’m taking it down at the end of this week).
If you use any of the activities, I’d love to hear how your trainees like them. I’m always looking for your feedback and ideas for creating future activities. Thanks and Happy Training!
I just finished “Flip the Script” by Oren Klaff, a very rich guy who runs around the world making huge million dollar deals. Why would a safety professional read this? The subtitle pulled me in. “Getting People to think Your Idea is Their Idea” is something that many safety people need to do every day in order to be successful in their jobs. I love to combine ideas from other fields and apply them to safety and this book has some good advice for pitching ideas to the people we work with either occasionally or every day.
One of the ideas I am most intrigued by is the concept of a “flash role.” In the book, the author talks about the scene from My Cousin Vinny where a star witness spouts off a paragraph of deep knowledge about cars, very quickly and matter of factly, in order to gain acceptance as an automotive expert. Click here to see the video.
Would this work for safety pros out in the field? I tend to think it would (as long as you really do know what you are talking about). Especially female or younger safety pros may have to show they know their stuff before being taken seriously. If you want others to go along with your ideas (even for something as simple as a “request” to wear fall protection), getting them to accept you as an expert is very important. If you are a safety pro who came into OHS from the field, this is probably something you already love to do. Workers may mistakenly underestimate you not realizing you have been in their shoes and know the lingo, the short-cuts, and the work-arounds. A quick flash role will likely elevate your status.
Have you tried something similar to a flash role? If so, what was the topic where you needed to show your expertise quickly and matter-of-factly? How did you do it? (I’ll try to collect some examples and post them here) but feel free to share your “flash roles” in the comments.