Stefan Van der Stigchel

Stefan Van der Stigchel is Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Utrecht University and the author of How Attention Works: Finding Your Way in a World Full of Distraction (MIT Press).

  • Concentration

    Concentration

    Staying Focused in Times of Distraction

    Stefan Van der Stigchel

    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.

    • Paperback $19.95 £15.99
  • How Attention Works

    How Attention Works

    Finding Your Way in a World Full of Distraction

    Stefan Van der Stigchel

    How we filter out what is irrelevant so we can focus on what we need to know.

    We are surrounded by a world rich with visual information, but we pay attention to very little of it, filtering out what is irrelevant so we can focus on what we think we need to know. Advertisers, web designers, and other “attention architects” try hard to get our attention, promoting products with videos on huge outdoor screens, adding flashing banners to websites, and developing computer programs with blinking icons that tempt us to click. Often they succeed in distracting us from what we are supposed to be doing. In How Attention Works, Stefan Van der Stigchel explains the process of attention and what the implications are for our everyday lives.

    The visual attention system is efficient, Van der Stigchel writes, because it doesn't waste energy processing every scrap of visual data it receives; it gathers only relevant information. We focus on one snippet of information and assume that everything else is stable and consistent with past experience; that's why most people miss even the most glaring continuity errors in films. If an object doesn't meet our expectations, chances are we won't see it. Van der Stigchel makes his case with examples from real life, explaining, among other things, the limitations of color perception (and why fire trucks shouldn't be red); the importance of location (security guards and radiologists, for example, have to know where to look); the attention-getting properties of faces and spiders; what we can learn from someone else's eye movements; why we see what we expect to see (magicians take advantage of this); and visual neglect and unattended information.

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00