“Paying attention” is something all of us spend a lot of time trying to get better at. But recent research tells us that what we’re really getting good at is “ignoring everything else”. In a recent neuroscience study, researchers successfully pinpointed the neural dynamic responsible for filtering unrelated information.
This first-of-a-kind study published by John Gaspar and John McDonald in the Journal of Neuroscience describes the traditional processes of visual analysis in which we manage to select relevant information from all the other visual data we are constantly bombarded with.
“This is an important discovery for neuroscientists and psychologists because most contemporary ideas of attention highlight brain processes that are involved in picking out relevant objects from the visual field.
It’s like finding Waldo in a Where’s Waldo illustration.”, said Gaspar.
But according to the study, selecting the “correct” information may not be as important as not noticing the incorrect information. Psychological and learning disorders having to do with attention may actually be the result of a failure to successfully inhibit competing information.
The study’s author, John McDonald writes:
“…disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD and schizophrenia, may turn out to be due to difficulties in suppressing irrelevant objects rather than difficulty selecting relevant ones.”