The Distracted Mind Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World by Adam Gazzaley, Larry D

Review From User :

Have you noticed how many people are looking at their smartphones while walking, crossing the street or even driving Does it drive you up the wall that your friends keep checking their phones while you're trying to talk to them or share a meal Our addiction to gadgets and gizmos has brought us to the brink of an attention crisis, which is not just harmful but dangerous. 80% of all car accidents and 16% of highway deaths result from distracted driving, and every year texting while driving kills thousands of folks before their time. In addition, hundreds of billions of dollars in productivity are lost annually to distraction, not to mention the loss in overall quality of life. Why do we all do this even though we know it's terrible for us And is there a cure

Goal interruption is the ultimate problem, and the culprits are distractions and interruptions (there's a difference!). According to Drs Gazzaley and Rosen, we are susceptible to them because we still have brains designed for foraging, always scoping the environment for novel information to enhance survival. Unfortunately, modern gizmos plug directly into this foraging circuit, making us go "Squirrel!" even when it's just a picture of one on a screen, and we don't really eat squirrels anymore anyway.

Gazzaley and Rosen -- a neuroscientist and psychologist, respectively -- make a strong case that distraction is indeed diminishing the quality of our lives in significant ways. They lay out the science of attention and information processing in a way that is thorough yet accessible to a general audience. What I particularly like about this book is that they themselves have done some of the pioneering research on distraction and attention, so you're getting it straight from the source. I gained a lot of insight into how goal interruption happens. For example:
-- Suppressing irrelevant information is not a passive process. It requires effort, and as you get older, you get worse at it, and are more distractable.
-- Your brain can only handle one cognitive task at a time, so multitasking is impossible. What you're really doing when you think you're multitasking is 'task switching', and the brain can only do that via network switching: activating a whole different set of circuits. This slows you down, big time.

So we've identified the problem -- now what The last two chapters of the book propose some solutions: educational initiatives, meditation, exercise, brain games, and video games, some of which (like Beepseeker and NeuroRacer) are being developed in the Gazzaley Lab right now. This is cutting-edge stuff, folks, and potentially revolutionary.

There's so much more in the book that simply won't fit in a short review. For me, the information was especially important because I've been feeling a lot of my energy and productivity frittering away from distractions like email and social media. How much more could I get done if I managed my mind better "The Distracted Mind" non-judgmentally frames the problem as the urgent crisis that it is, while proffering some straightforward solutions. Maybe you, too, would like to take back some of your time and attention, or have a loved one that really needs help in this department. If so, this book is the persuasive wallop you need to make the change towards a more goal-oriented, productive, healthy life.


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