Attention becomes more important when there is more to pay attention to. The information explosion of the modern world has put attention front and center as the gatekeeper of a flood of information, misinformation, and different interpretations about all those facts and claims. Even the simple acronym, DAT, used on this page for Deficit Attention Tweets, points to oceans of input on many fronts. Continue reading
Everyone has their own particular brain capacity. From an early age, we are good at some things rather than others, and attracted to particular fields. Do you like detail work or big pictures? Are you good with numbers or with words? You probably had a favorite subject in school; and if you are lucky, when a first job did not suit you, you found one that did—one that well suited your native capacities. Psychologists measure our brain capacities with numbers, our IQ or intelligence quotient, which puts a big emphasis on logical reasoning abilities. But our full capacities are a whole congress of talents for figuring things out, from mathematical puzzles and chess moves to basketball plays and social interaction. In the whole theater of life, some steps are smarter than others.
Education is the widely recognized setting for upping our intelligence game, with more knowledge and more skills; classrooms are important for learning all kinds of things from better writing to the subtleties of mitosis or financial accounting. Education is a great social step for sharpening our native intellectual capacities. But there is another personal step that anyone can take without spending a dime on tuition. Pay attention. Yes, paying attention is like pressing the power button on our brains. Imagine a powerful computer that’s turned off; now imagine a powerful brain with great capacities but no attention: powered off. Attention is effective intelligence. No matter your native endowments, add the sharp focus of attention to any project large or small, with interests fired up and mind drilling down on every implication and detail, and you’ve got intelligence to the max. Find what captures your attention, and you’ll find yourself capturing more of the world.
This is a page for brief comments on the changing role of attention in American culture. See my essay “Contesting the Human Normal,” https://pubclassroom.com/2016/02/12/adhd-contesting-the-human-normal/, for more on the emergence of the Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis, revised in the psychiatric profession as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in 1987, and for an overview of debates about how to deal with these tendencies to distraction.
What’s DAT offers short accounts of what Americans have been paying attention to and what is being ignored. Does attention follow love or hate, the important or the exciting? Have our capacities for attention changed as our lives have changed in speed of travel and communication, where we live, how we work, and how we play? Does attention support our thoughts or our feelings? Can others control your attention, or are you in charge? What other parts of life attract or distract for this vital gatekeeper of the human mind?