What is Directed Attention Fatigue?
I Have It?
Attention uses the power of our global inhibititory system to handle
distractions, let us concentrate, focus, and stay on task.
But we can use this inhibitory attention system so hard that we run out
of attention juice. Directed Attention can get tired, run down, and work
less and less well. In extreme cases, it can even become unavailable.
How can you tell if this has happened to you or someone you know? How can
you tell when you have Directed Attention Fatigue? Dr. Stephen Kaplan and
colleagues have identified signs of Directed Attention Fatigue in six major
areas of mental activity:
1. Input—You misperceive things, or miss cues.
2. Thinking— You can’t focus, get confused, forget things.
3. Behavior— You act impulsively, take chances, make more mistakes.
4. Executive functioning— You find it harder to decide and plan.
This can spread into other arenas:
5. Emotions—Your feelings become more unstable, and often more
6. Social interactions— You may feel more irritable and less helpful.
The more of these that happen at the same time, especially things from
different categories, the more likely it is that you have Directed Attention
This may sound like what most people experience when it’s late and
they’re tired, and that’s no accident. Attention fatigue
is common late at night, since you use most of your attention juice
course of a normal day.
But Directed Attention Fatigue can also happen at any time of day,
after an intense meeting, or after studying too hard, or if you live
in a noisy
or dangerous neighborhood. It can happen when you don’t feel
physically tired. In fact, you may feel weirdly alert and edgy. And
it can become
chronic if you repeatedly burn through your attention, or burn the
candle at both ends.
As we will say more than once, the results can range from trivial mistakes
to more serious consequences.
Later on, we will explore these six areas of Directed
Attention Fatigue more closely.
Things to remember
•DAF is FATIGUE, not a
•DAF is a
normal biological process, just like muscle aches, the kind of thing we
•Different individuals often have their own signs of
DAF. So learn
your own early warning signs, and take steps to reduce your Attention Fatigue.
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