Psychology 101: Hello!! Over here!!

As you’re reading this article, there are various sounds, sights, and sensations that are going on around you. The sight of the busy street out of your window, the soft melody of music in your ears, or the latest gossip you had with your friends. All of these sensations, sounds, and sights compete for our attention. Our attention treasures are not limitless. I sometimes find myself wondering, how do we manage to experience various sensations and still be able to focus on one element of our environment? In this article, we will define what attention is and the impacts it has in our daily lives.

Attention – defined by the psychologist and philosopher William James – is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what may seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others. Essentially, attention is when you decrease or blur out things that are happening at the same time, in order to focus on one section. Just think of attention as a highlighter. As you read through a certain text, highlighted sections stand out, leading you to focus on those areas. Attention is more than just centering your focus on one certain aspect; it includes ignoring many other things that are competing for information and stimuli.

Because of attention, we are able to turn off sensations along with perceptions that are deemed irrelevant in certain moments and alternatively focus our energy on information that is relevant. Our attentional system even impacts our perception of stimuli in our surroundings. Sometimes our attention is focused on one thing, making us ignore other things. This could even lead to us not perceiving the second thing at all. Ever find yourself spacing out during a boring lecture? (Ahem. I do that all the time). Sometimes you are just staring at a certain object, but you find yourself totally clueless of all the loud sounds that are in the room or someone talking to you.

In conclusion, here are some key points for you to understand attention: firstly, it is limited. Researchers discovered that the key variable that affects our ability to focus on one task involves our interest in the stimuli and the number of distractions we experience. This explains why some people are able to focus on situations with many distractions while others can’t. Secondly, attention is selective. We have to choose what we focus our attention on. Thirdly, attention is a basic part of the cognitive system. It is the basic component of our biology since birth. All of the many stimuli that happen to grab our attention, causing us to respond to our environment.

Wow! Isn’t it interesting how our brain works? Literally, every part of our body somehow communicates or is associated with our brain. I find it quite fascinating! Well, I hope this article was an attention grabber for you! Ok… that was just a bad pun. I’m bad with puns…



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