On average, the human eye takes between 100-400 milliseconds to blink. Impressive new findings from Massachusetts Institute of Technology claim the brain can process and comprehend a picture in just 13 milliseconds – a significant drop from the previous estimate of 100 milliseconds.
The finding was outlined in a recently published paper in the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. Senior author Mary Potter and her colleagues conducted the experiment by measuring the brain’s image-processing speed using a technique called rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP).
Participants were shown a sequence of 6 or 12 images flashed quickly onto a screen. They were told to keep an eye out for the “smiling couple” picture. The researchers decreased the time the picture stayed on the screen in every run going from 80 milliseconds, to 53, to 40, to 27, and finally to 13.
Previous research had suggested 50 milliseconds was the cut-off time for visual information to move from the eye through the visual processing part of the brain, to acknowledge what is being seen. But, though their performance slightly dropped, the images were still performing well at higher speeds.
A lot can happen in the blink of an eye. Research shows Internet users make up their minds about the quality of a website in just a 20th of a second and with this new research, websites are under more pressure to impress and to do it quickly.
The study, published in the journal Behaviour and Information Technology, also suggests that first impressions have a lasting impact. Researchers showed volunteers glimpses of websites for them to rate, lasting just 50 milliseconds. They found that the opinions formed when given a glimpse of the site and the opinions formed after a longer period of inspection were very similar.
People will spend seven seconds on a website before they click off elsewhere when they don’t find the information they are looking for.
So, in short, your website needs to be eye-catching and interesting, with information easily visible within a few seconds of a visit, or you may just lose that user forever. Piece of cake.