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3. Attention: Hacks 34–43 > 39. Avoid Holes in Attention

Avoid Holes in Attention

Our ability to notice things suffers in the half-second after we’ve just spotted something else.

A good way to think about attention is as the brain’s way of paring down the sheer volume of sensory input into something more manageable. You can then concentrate your resources on what’s important (or at least perceived to be so on first blush) and ignore the rest. If processing capacity weren’t limited, perhaps we wouldn’t need attention at all–we’d be able to give the same amount of concentration to everything in our immediate environment, simultaneously.

Another reason we continually pare down perception, using attention as a final limiting stage before reaching conscious awareness, could be that perception causes action. Maybe processing capacity doesn’t intrinsically need to be limited, but our ability to act definitely is: we can do only one major task at a time. Attention might just be a natural part of conflict resolution over what to do next.


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