Directed Attention Fatigue and Restoration

4. Signs of Attention Fatigue in Planning and Judgment

Our ability to plan and carry out plans, so central to our existence, is relatively fragile and depends on good attention. Attention Fatigue can decrease this executive functioning.

With Attention Fatigue, executive functions such as planning and decision-making are impaired:
•You may find it harder to make plans and decisions
•You may find it harder to follow a sequence of steps toward your goal
•You may make crazy or ineffective plans, or ones you could never follow
•You may have bad timing
•You may show disinterest, apathy, carelessness, lack of drive, reduced fluency, lack of self-correcting ability (Lezak, 1982)
•Your “older” inclinations may become default values
•You may show lack of drive, and find it hard to get moving
•You may find it hard to stay with dull chores
•You may forget why you’re here
•You may become more careless and not bother to plan
•You may lose your perspective
•You may lack direction
•You may have trouble doing more than just reacting to events
•You may act more like stimulus-response based organisms, responding automatically, slavishly, to stimuli, than a creature with a big brain with the ability to transcend the environment
•You may lose the big picture (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989)

Such “executive functioning” is central to human activity. Our ability to plan, dream, decide, and act in an orderly way to carry out our plans has enabled us to build civilizations, helps keep everything going today. Fatigue in these basic mental areas of input, central processing, output, and executive functioning can lead to wider changes in interacting and functioning. For example, while emotions are not directly controlled by Directed Attention, they have a complex and curious relationship with it.

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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