The Distracted Mind
Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World
- Winner, 2017 PROSE Awards, Biomedicine and Neuroscience category
304 pp., 6 x 9 in, 13 b&w illus.
- Published: October 27, 2017
- Published: September 23, 2016
- Published: September 16, 2016
Why our brains aren't built for media multitasking, and how we can learn to live with technology in a more balanced way.
"Brilliant and practical, just what we need in these techno-human times."—Jack Kornfield, author of The Wise Heart
Most of us will freely admit that we are obsessed with our devices. We pride ourselves on our ability to multitask—read work email, reply to a text, check Facebook, watch a video clip. Talk on the phone, send a text, drive a car. Enjoy family dinner with a glowing smartphone next to our plates. We can do it all, 24/7! Never mind the errors in the email, the near-miss on the road, and the unheard conversation at the table. In The Distracted Mind, Adam Gazzaley and Larry Rosen—a neuroscientist and a psychologist—explain why our brains aren't built for multitasking, and suggest better ways to live in a high-tech world without giving up our modern technology.
The authors explain that our brains are limited in their ability to pay attention. We don't really multitask but rather switch rapidly between tasks. Distractions and interruptions, often technology-related—referred to by the authors as “interference”—collide with our goal-setting abilities. We want to finish this paper/spreadsheet/sentence, but our phone signals an incoming message and we drop everything. Even without an alert, we decide that we “must” check in on social media immediately.
Gazzaley and Rosen offer practical strategies, backed by science, to fight distraction. We can change our brains with meditation, video games, and physical exercise; we can change our behavior by planning our accessibility and recognizing our anxiety about being out of touch even briefly. They don't suggest that we give up our devices, but that we use them in a more balanced way.
Overwhelming evidence for why cultivating moment-to-moment awareness of our outsized and addictive distractibility in the digital age and robust lifestyle strategies to stabilize and sustain our attention in the present moment is becoming an absolute necessity.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR); author of Coming to Our Senses and Full Catastrophe Living
Gazzaley and Rosen's work is brilliant and practical, just what we need in these techno-human times.
Jack Kornfield, author of The Wise Heart
The Distracted Mind by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen is a highly engaging read of how we cognitively pursue our goals and how our brains have to frequently overcome internal and external interference, including that from modern technologies, to do this successfully. The book includes excellent, clear examples of what these problems of goal interference are and how they might affect us in our daily lives. It is a very informative and extremely interesting read, which is strongly recommended for all those with an interest in neuroscience, psychology, and the impact of technology on society.
Barbara J Sahakian, 3
The book strikes an outstanding balance between cutting-edge scientific knowledge and practical suggestions for effectively coping with today's unprecedented technological demands, which result in distracted minds at all ages and make us want to believe in the myth of multitasking.
Pat DeLeon, former President of the American Psychological Association