Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Study Suggests Online Shopping Hurts Your Attention Span

New research finds that shopping online makes you more distracted.

A recent study published in PloS One suggests that online shopping can reduce one's focus and attention span.

Researchers were able to demonstrate that online shopping was linked to more distractibility, slower reaction time, and worse concentration. First, researchers measured and compared the reaction time of people before and after three different activities: online shopping, reading a magazine, and resting. The only group whose reaction time slowed was the online shopping group.

Second, researchers examined activity in the brain using electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs), noninvasive ways to detect brain waves and neural activity during information processing. Researchers found again that online shopping led to brain signals associated with less concentration and focus compared to people who read a magazine or rested.

This research adds to existing studies that suggest that using the Internet can result in slowed and less efficient information processing. Being online can result in browsing and scanning, especially since information is typically presented in large amounts and through multiple hyperlinks, which can lead to widespread, multiple directions. This format can make it very difficult to remember or process information easily or deeply. Some people may enjoy a large amount of information at their fingertips, but for others, especially those who may have difficulty multi-tasking or may have attention disorders, the Internet can be distracting and challenging to navigate.

If you’re already feeling distracted or unfocused, online shopping and surfing online may not be the right answer. You may want to consider instead reading a book or magazine or, better yet, try a mindfulness or meditation exercise. Both mindfulness and meditation have had promising results in terms of improving attention and focus, including helping adults and children who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

You can check out my other articles on how to practice mindfulness on your own at home in just a few minutes:

Yoga Breathing

Walking Meditation

Marlynn Wei, MD © 2018

More from Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.
More from Psychology Today