This research outlines the role of relevance and ostension in capturing our attention according to Relevance Theory (Sperber & Wilson, 1995) and discusses evidence of a decrease in the period of collective dedicated attention on social media recently. Human cognition involves ongoing monitoring of the environment, availability of vast amounts of memorised data, and the ability to process attentively and effectively limited amounts of information at once (Broadbent, 1958; Wilson & Sperber, 2012) . Thus, what makes information attention-worthy? According to RT, Relevance does. Relevance is a potential property of external stimuli or internal representations that provide inputs to cognitive processes. Human communication is intentional. Therefore, ostensive behaviour manifests the intention to make something manifest, conveying an implicit guarantee of relevance.
Attention is one of the digital era’s most valuable and scarce resources. We have access to massive amounts of information due to technological advances; however, our mental processing capacity remains the same. Herbert Simon (Simon, 1994) coined the expression ‘attention economy’. He theorised that attention was the “bottleneck of human thought”, limiting what we can perceive and do in stimulating environments. He remarked that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”, suggesting that multitasking is a myth. Michael Goldhaber (Goldhaber, 1997) presaged that the economy was shifting from a material-based to an attention-based economy, referring to free online services. Recently, an avalanche of news reaches smartphones in real-time and reactions on social media spread across the globe in seconds. Lorenz-Spreen et al., 2019 suggest that popular content’s accelerated ups and downs are driven by increased content production and consumption, resulting in a faster depletion of human attention resources. Therefore, individual topics receive shorter intervals of collective attention. Furthermore, Oliveira & Chan, 2019 concluded that both information overload and limited attention contribute to the degradation of the discriminatory power of human cognition.
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