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The Impoverishment of Attention

Continual partial attention

We increasingly find it difficult to focus on the hear and now without checking our phones. We seem to go through life in a state of "continual partial attention." We're there but not aware of where we put our attention.

While modern technology has its advantages, our attention span is suffering. Teachers are noticing that current students find it hard to read books that previous students used to enjoy. Teachers think that students' ability to read has been compromised by short text messages and video games.

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The Impoverishment of Attention

The Impoverishment of Attention

https://fs.blog/2014/01/the-impoverishment-of-attention/

fs.blog

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Key Ideas

Inner, other and outer focus

We need three kinds of focus:

  • Inner focus guides our values and decisions.
  • Other focus smooths our relationships with people.
  • Outer focus lets us navigate in the larger world.

Attention works similar to a muscle - exercise it, and it will grow, neglect it, and it can wither. How we arrange our attention shapes our reality.

Two main varieties of distractions

  • Sensory: We can more easily tune out from sensory distractions. For example, the feel of your tongue against your upper palate is an incoming stimuli your brain weeds out.
  • Emotional distraction is more difficult to tune out. When you overhear someone mention your name, it's almost impossible to ignore.

Those who focus best are relatively immune to emotional disturbance.

We learn best with focused attention

As we read a book or blog, our mind constructs a mental model that helps us to make sense of what we are reading. If we can't focus, we'll have holes in our understanding.

To key to better understanding is deep reading and thinking. We can have great returns on all the information out there if we are willing to sit down and apply ourselves. Deep thought must be learned. To do that, we have to tune out most of the distractions and focus.

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