cover image Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again

Johann Hari. Crown, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-13851-9

Journalist Hari (Lost Connections) explores a growing “crisis”—people’s inability to focus their attention for extended periods—in this provocative study. He presents data that suggests students switch tasks once every 65 seconds, while adults in offices tend to remain focused on one thing for just three minutes. There are costs to this decrease in attention span, he suggests, from both an intellectual and a productivity perspective, as studies have shown that workers’ IQ dropped by an average of 10 points when they faced frequent “technological distraction” in the form of emails and phone calls. Hari lays out a wide array of environmental factors at play in this decline: technology companies promote innovations to keep people glued to their screens; there’s a large-scale sleep deprivation issue (40% of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived); and overall stress levels have increased—meanwhile, “deteriorating diets and rising pollution” do little to help. Although Hari addresses some actions that readers can take (such as locking phones up in a safe and taking six months off social media), he concludes that the issue is beyond individuals and is a regulatory problem—but his call that people need to band together to build “a movement to reclaim our attention” feels somewhat nebulous. Still, it’s a comprehensive and chilling lay of the land. (Jan.)