Monday, May 21, 2012

Why do You Turn Down the Radio When You’re Lost?

I not only do this when I’m lost, but I also do it when I’m looking for something that I’ve misplaced. 

At many levels this makes no sense, I can’t “hear” the car keys or book I’m reading or cellphone I put down somewhere.

Caroline Latham, in an insightful article on the SharpBrains website explains this by quoting Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, who said: “Directing attention to listening effectively ‘turns down the volume’ on input to the visual parts of the brain. The evidence we have right now strongly suggests that attention is strictly limited - a zero-sum game. When attention is deployed to one modality - say, in this case, talking on a cell phone - it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality - in this case, the visual task of driving.”

It’s a helpful article with some hints on what to do about it (other than do a better job of putting your keys in the same place every time). Here’s a link to it:

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