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Online pop-up ads reduce attention span, explains study


Online pop-up advertisements make readers lose their concentration by causing a significant drop in brain activity, a study has found. Researchers from Pomeranian University of Technology in Poland studied five Polish men and one woman, between the age of 20 and 25 years. They were instructed to read ten short pages of text on a computer screen, after which they had to answer questions about the content.

During the reading process, their attention was distracted when online advertisements randomly appeared on screen. The brain activity of each participant was measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Researchers observed each participant’s brain signal patterns and also analysed how consistent these were across the different trials, and how they correlated with those of others. They noted two main effects for most subjects. First, the presence of online advertisements influenced participants’ concentration. This was deduced from the significant drop in beta activity that was observed in the frontal/prefrontal cortical areas.

This could indicate that the presentation of the advertisement induced a drop in concentration levels, researchers said. The appearance of the advertisement also induced changes in the frontal/prefrontal asymmetry index. However, the direction of this change differed among subjects, in that for some it dipped, and for others it increased. Researchers believe that the participants’ response to the advertisement might be influenced by their motivation predisposition.

“If the subject is more ‘approach’ oriented, the changes in the asymmetry index might reflect growing activity in the left brain hemisphere,” said Izabela Rejer from Pomeranian University of Technology

“If, on the other hand, the subject is more ‘withdraw’ oriented, these changes might reflect the growing activity in the right hemisphere,” Rejer added.


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