Daily Archives: December 18, 2011

Paying Attention

I saw part of a very interesting program on the National Geographic Channel called Brain Games.  The show featured concepts of how we pay attention and how easily fooled we are because we really can’t pay attention to many things at once. Before watching this show, I thought I paid either very good attention to everything or none at all. The show proved to me that I do not have the attentive powers that I thought I had. The presenters showed a scene that changed seven times with an interval of black one second long between changes. I did not recognize a single change. But I also remember reading a study that if you want people to pay attention to a bulletin board, you need to rearrange the items, so that it appears different.

Our brain fills things in as we pay attention to one thing at a time. This skews our realization of reality. This is probably why eyewitnesses to accidents often have differing stories as to what had happened. Did you ever play that game in school where the teacher whispers in a students ear and asks that student to pass it on to the next. After 20 or 30 re-tellings, the message is much different then the original. We only have a perception of reality and that is limited to what we pay attention to. The arguments of reality vs. perception and truth vs. fact have been waged for millennia. Knowledge through the ages has been gained and lost. Ancient civilizations paid attention to the stars, tracking their movements. Then somehow, we, citizens of earth, seemed to lose that knowledge. We exist in a real world, but what is our reality? I have often considered myself a bit of a realist, but now I think I will expand my views.

Our expectations taint our reactions and we pay attention to what is important to us. Imagine that we are in a waiting room, if we are interested in music, we might pay more attention to the music of our surroundings. However, if we are more interested in art, we might pay more attention to the paintings hanging on the wall. All those things are present and we may even notice them all but not necessarily pay attention to them.

Looks like I need to pay attention to the clock and sign off. Good night all.

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