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3. Attention: Hacks 34–43 > 36. Feel the Presence and Loss of Attention

Feel the Presence and Loss of Attention

Following seemingly identical objects around with your eyes isn’t an easy job. Concentrating, it’s possible, and the brain can even track objects when they momentarily pass behind things and disappear, but only in certain circumstances.

The problem with attention as a mechanism is that we use it continuously—it’s an intrinsic part of perception—and consequently it’s very hard to spot what it actually does or what giving attention to something actually feels like.

This hack has a go at showing you what allocating attention actually feels like, by getting you to voluntarily give attention to some fairly generic objects—in this case, you’ll be tracking small, colored shapes as they move around. And you’ll be able to feel what happens to these shapes when you take attention away. These are humble beginnings—attention allocation to moving shapes—but we use these mechanisms for following any thing as it moves around: tennis balls, dogs, ants, and cursors.


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