“Hey, did you just hear that? Look, did you just see that? Wait, can you feel that? What’s that smell?”
On a daily basis our senses are bombarded with information.
Sights, sounds, smells, and tactile sensations come at us from every angle, vying for a precious scrap of our cognitive awareness.
Despite our best efforts, we simply can’t take in all of this information. It’s true that we can experience a multitude of stimuli at once, but focusing our mind and differentiating between these stimuli requires a very special skill – attention.
The famed psychologist William James describes attention as such:
Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German.
Attention is essential for taking in information, but it comes at a cost: we can only focus our attention on one piece of information at a time. It’s only by ignoring other streams of incoming information that we can actually process the small piece of information that we’re focusing on.
Think back to the last time you were in a crowded room at a loud party. Groups of colorfully … Read More