Directed Attention Fatigue and Restoration

1. Sensory Signs of Directed Attention Fatigue

Directed Attention Fatigue can make you more susceptible to sensory input and processing errors and confusion.

With Attention Fatigue you may experience a decreased ability to inhibit distractions while processing sensory and perceptual input:

•You have difficulty taking in information
•You may over-include things
•Focusing is difficult and your mind may wander
•You may confuse thoughts with outer events
•You may have trouble listening, or may hear things wrong
•You may be more likely to miss things
•You may be more susceptible to illusions, and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

Now, we are not talking about having imaginary friends, or hearing voices all day. That’s way beyond the scope of this book!

What we mean here is the occasional mistake, lapse, temporary misidentification— mistaking a coat on a coat rack for a person, as William James discussed in The Principles of Psychology, or thinking we hear the doorbell when it hasn’t rung.

This may be one of the reasons things get spookier at night.

First, we are heading into territory for which our daylight-loving senses are less well adapted. But more to the point here, our attention mechanism is typically becoming fatigued by the end of the day, so we are less able to discriminate what is real and what is illusion.

That’s why smart ghosts come out at night—they know we will be easier to fool!

It is also harder to block miscellaneous input when your attention is fatigued, and harder to identify and focus on a single voice in a busy room, or harder to ignore noise or a busy environment.

Which means that if you have to concentrate when fatigued, it takes even more attention juice, so your troubles are compounded.

And this is sensory processing part--just the beginning!

William James, The Principles of Psychology, 1890

Kaplan, Rachel, and Stephen Kaplan, The experience of nature, a psychological perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989

Lezak, M.D., Assessing executive functions, International Journal of Psychology, 17 (1982) 281-297


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© 2006-2008 S. Beadle
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