Staying Focused in Times of Distraction
224 pp., 5 x 8 in, 8 b&w illus.
- Published: May 5, 2020
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: April 10, 2020
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How to concentrate in a world of beeping smartphones, channel surfing, live-tweeting, pop-up ads, and other distractions.
We are in the midst of an attention crisis—caused in large part by our smartphones. There's a constant stream of information that we are powerless to withstand because it shows up in our notifications. More and more of us are finding it harder and harder to concentrate. In this book, attention expert and cognitive psychologist Stefan Van der Stigchel explains how concentration works and offers advice on how to stay focused in a world of beeping smartphones, channel surfing, live-tweeting, pop-up ads, and other distractions.
The good news, Van der Stigchel reports, is that we now know more about brain and behavior than ever before, and he draws on the latest scientific findings in his account of concentration. He explains, among other things, that the battle for our attention began long before the digital era; why our phones are so addictive; the importance of working memory (responsible for executing complicated tasks) and how to increase its capacity; and why multitasking is bad for our concentration, but attention rituals help it. He describes the 2017 Oscars debacle (when the Best Picture presenter was given the wrong card) as a failure of multitasking; argues that daydreaming can be good for our concentration; and shows that the presence of a passenger in a car reduces the risk of an accident. He explains the positive effects of taking “tech breaks” (particularly in natural surroundings), meditation, and even daydreaming. We can win the battle for our attention, Van der Stigchel argues, if we have the knowledge and the tools to do it.
This book offers a sane tour through what can seem like an insane world of screen-based distraction. Van der Stigchel is an amiably skeptical guide to what science does and does not tell us about why we need to respond to that alert right now... oops, sorry, gotta go.
Jeremy M. Wolfe, Professor of Ophthalmology and Radiology, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital
Concentration covers the essentials of what are we doing with our technology (particularly our smartphones), why do we do it and how we can avoid its obsessive, addictive nature. Traversing psychology from behaviorism to cognition and all topics in between, this book is straightforward, interesting, and quite readable.
Larry D. Rosen, coauthor of The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World
A fascinating and engaging exploration of what happens in our brains when we concentrate—and how we can use this knowledge to protect one of life's most precious resources: our attention.
Catherine Price, science journalist, author of How to Break Up With Your Phone and founder of ScreenLifeBalance.com