Lifestyle General The Eight-Second Consult
The Eight-Second Consult


If you’re wondering why your patients don’t seem to listen to you any more, relax. It’s not you, it’s them. Recent research has confirmed that human attention span is decreasing to a point where we could all be clinically diagnosed as butterfly brains.

Wardell-Wendy-Ms-cropped Mar14130x110 Wendy Wardell

Some researchers have it as low as eight seconds, which makes the goldfish, at nine seconds, a paragon of focused concentration.

It’s just a shame that possession of fins makes them unsuited for careers we can no longer handle, like bomb disposal or professional gambling.

Given the inability to focus on one thing for longer than the blink of an eye, it’s lucky that as a society, we’ve already done the hard yards in discovering the secret of fire and inventing the wheel. Doubtless nowadays we’d be too distracted to get around to it.

Having a short attention span isn’t all downside though. In the recent Senate elections, each advert for the Palmer United Party would have seemed constantly new, fresh and exciting. I’m trying, but still can’t find this other than deeply depressing.

The secret to capturing more than a moment of people’s attention now is to make everything a form of entertainment. This is where infectious diseases have cornered the market.

Devious new flu bugs are reinventing themselves and finding ever more sinister ways of overcoming our resistance, much like Moriarty or Lady Gaga. Ebola has the gore of Game of Thrones and the exotic location of a David Attenborough doco.

Superbugs are the arch nemesis of wily medicos who combine the wit and intelligence of Stephen Fry with the raw sexuality of Daniel Craig (thankfully, not the other way around), and, of course, the sunny disposition of House.

stopwatch-60204 640.300I’m afraid this is the competition that you’re up against if you’re trying to make people pay rapt attention to their fatty liver or dicky pancreas.

What Peter Jackson did for New Zealand with Lord of the Rings could so easily be turned to the cause of regular prostate checks with a decent budget and a shed full of computer geeks, who don’t get out much.

Think Indiana Jones retreating at speed from a giant gallstone bearing down on him, or a Twilight-themed Haemochromatosis Awareness Week.

Blood and squelchy bits are just another day at the movies for fans of the 300 franchise and will have little impact emblazoned on cigarette packets. But the day that a blackened and downcast Wile E Coyote’s smoking habit is shown to again thwart his pursuit of Road Runner will be the day smokers start to understand the error of their ways.

After all, you rarely see anyone attaching jet packs to roller skates or throwing anvils off cliffs any more do you?

The Medical Board would be a bit dark about it, but maybe they need new direction.

I think Kermit the Frog might be just the amphibian for the job and he could even distract those irritatingly intense goldfish.