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Posts Tagged ‘Attentional Control’

What was I saying? Oh, right, Absent-mindedness…

April 26th, 2018 No comments

It’s a Saturday night. You come home early to catch your favorite TV show. You’re in such a hurry that you throw your keys somewhere carelessly. When it’s time to go out, you can’t remember where you put your keys. It’s not at the regular spot where you usually place your keys. It takes a long time for you to find them. Does this seem familiar? When things like this happen, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with your mind. In fact, it is a common phenomenon called absent-mindedness.

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Absent-mindedness is a cognitive bias that happens when people “zone out” and make mistakes in daily life (Broadbent, Cooper, FitzGerald, & Parkes, 1982). The mistakes can be anything related to a lack of attention, e.g., walking in a room and forgetting why you came in, dropping something unintentionally, or throwing your phone in a trash can and keeping the coffee cup (which happened to me once). Absent-mindedness is where attention and memory come together, even though they seem to be two separate things.

How is absent-mindedness related to attention? Before answering this question, we need to know that our attention has a limited capacity (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). One theory suggests that when our limited attentional resource is occupied, the rate of absent-mindedness may increase (Fisher & Hood, 1987). This means that if you are talking to a friend while walking down the street and paying little attention to your surroundings, you might end up bumping into someone if that person is being absent-minded as well!
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Absentmindedness: Why am I so bor…. oh wait I love this song!

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Do you ever find yourself bored for no reason? Wishing you were somewhere else doing something else? Or how about doing more than one thing at once? For example, you are driving…searching for your favorite song knowing full well that scrolling through your playlist while driving is dangerous. (click here to learn more about the perils of distracted driving).

Taken from imgflip.com

This humorous clip points to how multitasking while driving results in errors. In this situation, you are attending to two different tasks at once. We find ourselves in these situations more frequently than we like to admit. This has a lot to do with how and where we direct our attention. Interests and desires impact attentional control. The more we are interested in a task, the more attention we give to it. Attentional control is affected by how much attention we have to give each task.  We, only have a finite amount of attentional resources, and each task requires different levels of attention. This can lead to the cognitive bias, absentmindedness, which is the failure to attend to a task resulting in mistakes and forgetful behavior particularly when two tasks are being attempted simultaneously. A point of distinction is that multitasking which leads to absentmindedness is not a positive attribute and one we should avoid. Read more…

Isn’t The Weber-Fechner Law The Same As Any Other Equation? Never mind, I Just Noticed The Difference

April 24th, 2018 No comments

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Imagine that you and your best friend are sitting in the back of the classroom during a lecture on a Friday afternoon. All you can think about is the concert  you’re going to tonight that you’ve been excited about for months, so you give up on trying to listen to your professor explain nuclear chemistry. You quietly whisper back and forth with your friend, talking about what you plan on wearing and what time you need to leave. Finally, the lecture ends and before you know it you’re at the concert. The music is blasting and you’re having a great time, but after singing along to several songs you decide you need to go buy something to drink. You start to tell your friend that you’ll be right back, but she doesn’t hear you. You say her name louder a few times, but she still doesn’t notice. Finally, you lean in close and yell in her ear. She nods and says something back but you can’t hear it over the music. You could hear each other just fine a few hours ago in class, but now it’s nearly impossible. What you’re experiencing is a difference in background intensity, and Ernest Weber and Gustav Fechner have a law that will tell you all about it. Read more…

Under Budget and Over Time: The Planning Fallacy is Why You’re Always Behind Schedule

April 17th, 2017 8 comments

You are a busy college student who has a lot to do after a long day of classes. So you decide to try to organize your life and make a detailed schedule for your evening. You set aside an hour to get that workout in, and then another generous hour for dinner with your friends. Then to the library, you give yourself 45 minutes to read a history article and an hour to finish your lab report, followed

Evening Schedule

by an hour and a half for that chapter of chemistry notes. If all goes as planned, you’ll be back in your room snuggled up with Netflix by 11pm. The problem is, halfway through that chemistry chapter, you glance at your phone and it reads 11:43pm. What happened? You planned out everything you had to do and thought you had given yourself enough time to do it. Unfortunately, you have fallen victim to the planning fallacy. Read more…

Why Have I Seen so Many Dogs Today… and Other Effects of the Attentional Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever experienced that feeling where you’re in a bad mood and everything seems to be going wrong that day? Maybe all of your friends seem mad at you, or maybe you do something embarrassing like trip, and you feel like everybody is making fun of you.  These are basic examples of the phenomenon that cognitive psychologists call the attentional bias.  This describes the tendency for you to focus on certain pictures, objects, facial expressions, or other stimuli in your environment based on what is dominating your thoughts.  This means that someone who is very interested in dogs and reads a lot of information about them, or looks at pictures of them online all the time, will tend to focus more on dogs in their environment.

Cute dogs

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One Item, Two Prices: How the Endowment Effect Can Explain Different Valuations of the Same Object

April 17th, 2017 No comments

If you are not aware of the United Airlines disaster/debacle/controversy/blunder (take

Figure 1: United Airlines aircraft

your pick), I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself. However, to save you some time, I will provide you with a short recap of what happened. On April 11, 2017 United Airlines had over booked a flight from Chicago to Louisville and needed to make room for four members of the flight crew. You can probably guess where this is going –  an overbooked flight with four additional seats needed means that four passengers have to change to a later flight (math!). No one wanted to volunteer to give up their seat, so United Airlines bumped four passengers who were already seated from this flight. For whatever reason, one man really did not want to give up his seat that he had already paid for. Thus, United Airlines underwent an “involuntary de-boarding situation” and thought that it would be a good idea to physically remove this man while he was kicking and screaming. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for United Airlines, this incident was caught by many people on video and then posted to social media. If you’re curious about what United Airlines missed and how they could have potentially avoided the bad PR they incurred after the event, you should continue reading.
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Does Self-Control Depletion Have A Negative Impact in Sports?

November 24th, 2015 3 comments

Have you ever been so angry and frustrated at something that you begin having irrational thoughts or actions? Say you stub your toe and begin screaming profanities at the bureau that you stubbed it on. In your normal state of mind, you would know that it’s ridiculous to be screaming at inanimate objects when the cause of your frustration is entirely on you. So why do these irrational thoughts or actions happen in the first place, and why does our self-control seem to disappear in these instances? Self-control depletion, or losing the ability to control oneself has been recently looked at in greater detail, and real world implications of self control depletion are being discovered. An area that self-control depletion can have a large effect is in sports competition. Anyone who has played competitive sports knows the feeling of being so frustrated with an aspect of the game that they no longer act as themselves, and rather act on frustration and anger. Whether it comes from a ref blowing an obvious call or an opposing player performing a blatant foul on you or one of your teammates, a normally rational and unaggressive player can lose their self-control quickly. A study in 2014 by Englert and Bertrams looked at self–control depletion, focusing their study on the effects that self-control depletion has in sports. Being able to have self-control is a very important part of most competitive sports. From flipping over a chess table because you are frustrated by your lack of strategy, to hitting an opposing football player with the truck-stick because they badmouthed your teammate on the previous play, self-control comes into play more often than not in competitive play. Understanding the effects of self-control depletion in sports may just give you the competitive edge.

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Self-control can be defined as the process of voluntarily controlling an impulse or habitual action, such as choosing to eat an apple instead of a piece of cake when you are on a diet. Much like how attention is a limited resource, self-control is also limited in its capacity. In sports, attention is spread to many different things, and since it is a limited resource, it is difficult to pay attention to self-control while attending to so many other distractions. Attention has often been described as a “spotlight”, and you must move the spotlight around to focus your attention on different things. In sports, that spotlight is constantly moving around, trying to focus on the most important aspect of the game. Since you are trying to focus on so many different things, you are spending much less time focusing on your self-control, and allowing it to get out of hand when presented with situations requiring utmost self-control.

After a first act of self-control, the resource is depleted for a certain amount of time, and it is not replenished instantly (Baumeister et al., 1998). This time period where the resource has been depleted is called “ego depletion”, and further acts of self-control are temporarily impaired during this period. This study also aimed to look at how certain aspects of sporting competitions can actually deplete self-control strength. In order to do this, the experimenters relied on the effect of vicarious depletion. Vicarious depletion can be described as mentally reliving the actions of a person who had to exert self-control and having your own self-control depleted as well.

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Parenting Tips: How Bilingualism Can Save You From the Terrible Twos

May 2nd, 2014 6 comments

Leash child

 

“Look at Mommy!” “Come with Daddy!” Kids in the terrible two’s and even three’s just don’t seem to listen. Their world appears to be full of distractions. One moment they are giving you their undivided attention as you ask them to sit still, the next they are waddling off as fast as possible in the crowded supermarket. Their attention seems almost hopelessly uncontrollable. They dart from one toy to the next, and eventually you wonder how on earth their teacher gets them to focus for even a minute in school. Is there any way to reduce the distractions of these problematic preschoolers? A cure is bilingualism. Being bilingual means that you have the ability to speak in two or even several languages. Now, I’m not saying popular children’s shows teaching simple phrases from another language, such as Dora the Explorer, may have the most influence on your child’s attentional control, but actually being fairly fluent in multiple languages has a positive effect on preschooler’s attention. Read more…

How Just a Loud Noise Can Ruin Someone’s Day

May 2nd, 2014 1 comment

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Have you ever been focused on something, such as a homework assignment or a TV show, and been suddenly startled by a loud noise?  If so, you probably quickly focused on the noise and its source, then returned to the task at hand.  This is an example of attentional capture.  Attentional capture is the involuntary redirection of attention to an environmental cue, with the purpose of surviving potential predators or dangers.  Although we aren’t usually in danger, cues such as loud noises, flashes, or quick movements temporarily grab our attention from our current task.  Once we label the potential danger as being safe, we easily return our focus back to our original task.  However, not everyone can return to their previous task so easily.

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