Donny Osmond is coming to Oldham; honestly, the 1970s teen heart-throb is to launch his career as a broadcaster working as a DJ for “Revolution”, the area’s local radio station. Of course, many of the people who will listen to his Saturday morning show will have no real idea of who he is. After all, the typical commercial local radio listener is aged under 35 which means they were mere babes when Donny was at his peak. The people who really remember young Donny are now in their 50s and 60s. And one thing we know about them is that their brain works differently to when they were in their teens.
New evidence from psychologists at the University of California shows that as we get older we are less able to cope with distractions. What the study looked at was the ability to multi-task when distracted. Younger people were able to cope with distractions and keep their attention on their tasks in hand. However, older individuals aged around 70 were much more easily distracted. They found it much harder to focus once distracted.
The study reveals that working memory – the part of our brain which we use to focus on what is happening in the here and now – is less able to hold information as we get older. It doesn’t mean we remember less, instead it means that working memory is more “leaky” when we age.
For website owners this is important. If your visitors are young, the distractions on your site, such as advertising, or internal promotions, can easily be coped with because working memory can handle the extra material. But if your website visitors are older, then their working memory cannot handle the distracting material and the information you want them to focus on. This means that your older website visitors could end up focusing on things you don’t want them to – the distracting items.
Knowing the age of your website visitors can help. If you have younger visitors then advertising can work – they will not be distracted by it and could even use it, bringing you in additional income. But if your visitors are older they may be distracted by the advertising, taking their focus away from what you really want them to engage in.
And that could be a problem for the Oldham radio station 96.2 The Revolution – older listeners attracted by the Donny Factor could well be distracted by their memories of their teenage years that they never hear the adverts. Oh whoops…!
- UCSF study on multitasking reveals switching glitch in aging brain (esciencenews.com)
- Nultitasking study reveals switching glitch in aging brain (sciencedaily.com)
- UCSF study on multitasking reveals switching glitch in aging brain (eurekalert.org)
- Memory Study Explains ‘Senior Moments’ (livescience.com)
- Brain Scans Show How Multitasking Is Harder for Seniors (wired.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+