Have you ever been to career counsellors. If you have, you would have had the experience of people asking you to focus on your goal like Arjun did. Well, ‘Focus’, in scientific terms has many features and associated dimensions. The whole process of giving ATTENTION is pretty complicated.
Attention, by definition, is the process by which you select the most wanted stimulus out of many stimuli all around you.
What be the stimuli. Stimuli may be of various types-
- Auditory- All that you hear are stimuli to the brain. On the basis of pleasantness your brain classifies it. NOISE is what your brain considers as unwanted- a group of fluctuating waves with high rising frequencies and varying amplitudes amalgamated together.
MUSIC is more pleasurable for the frequency of waves are closer to one another.
- Visual- Why is it so that in this colourful world, your eye catches only your favourites. Or perhaps in a book having a myriad of points, you only choose to go through the highlighted portions. Well, that is again a way in which your brain prioritises.
- Tactile-It consists of two types of touch- Crude touch and Fine touch. Crude touch is often associated with pain while fine touch is associated with pressure changes. Your skin has various types of receptors present within its layers, in the form of corpuscles and discs. Both these sensations have different pathways in the body.
- Gustatory- If you have bitter gourd, you would perhaps not enjoy it. A bowl of caramel custard is perhaps more in demand.
- Olfactory – Thanks to your nose, you merrily get dragged towards the restaurants on chilly winter afternoons while you are out for work- perhaps because it makes the greedy you repond to the bait.
- Others like Pain, Temperature, Itch
Let’s make it a bit simple. Say for example, there is a class of students and a teacher teaching in it. Let us say that the teacher is discussing a very important topic and you are very sincere. So you pay less attention to what the other students are doing and focus more on the lecture. But, if the class be boring, you would rather have a merry time chatting with your benchmate and paying more attention to how he spent his last vacation
ATTENTION- A BROADER VIEW
Attention, in broader sense, has three terms related to it.
- Alertness- This is a term which describes you as a perceiver of a stimuli. It measures the extent to which you are ready to receive and respond to the stimuli around you. Many factors again influence your level of alertness, and the more alert you are, the better is the response.
- Concentration- This mostly refers to how well you can manage the stimuli all around you, and keep the unwanted stimuli from catching your attention.
- Search- That is what your brain does- it selects and filters all that you require.
So, next time you sit for the important lectures, be sure that you listen to the speaker with full ALERTNESS, CONCENTRATE on what he says and SEARCH for what you need to take home.
- Sustained Attention- When we attend to each and every detail of a particular thing, event or information.
- Selective Attention- We filter out what is required only.
- Divided Attention – when you do two things at a time efficiently. However the chance of committing mistakes is higher.
FACTORS AFFECTING ATTENTION
Something makes this whole process of paying attention easier for you. Well, these are the factors that affect your ability to focus.
- External factors– These factors make the stimuli more palatable.
- How often has it happened to you that you failed to memorize a page from a textbook and have got scolded for it but have been able to do so when someone reads those pages beside you and you carefully listen.
- Or, don’t you find it easier to memorise lyrics to a song with rhythm while not a single word from a long speech enters your head.
Don’t feel disheartened. It happens with all. According to researches, retention power to auditory stimuli is 60% while that to Visual is 70% and facts get retained to upto 25%. Hence if you read the process of measuring the density of a cylinder you would fumble in viva. If you had attended a theory class, you would perhaps not lose your face but you will do wonders if you learn by doing.
Also, the brain finds rhythmic stimuli more easier to handle than verbal narrations.
Oddities and sudden innovative ways to attract attention top the list. Also, stimuli related to ones personal experiences are better perceived. And thus, the rhythmic calls of the hawkers with crispy taglines about their products get accounted for.
2. Internal factors– These include motivational factors and cognitive factors.
- Motivational factors consist of what the body needs. Example- you search for water when you are thirsty
- Cognitive factors- these include all that you are interested in.The span of attention is a very important factor. At a given time it can only focus on defined set of information. As per information,it is seven plus minus two. There are however ways of sustaining attention that may help us remember upto nine specifics at a time. These are-
- Clarity of stimuli
- Stimuli at repeated intervals and fixed places
Thus remembering cell numbers at one go is quite difficult.
Activity of the brain during functioning can be traced by a machine known as electroencephalograph (EEG).
Alpha waves appear when the brain is at rest. Suddenly when the brain starts working irregular high frequency beta waves appear. This phenomenon is known as alpha block.
Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.
INABILTY TO FOCUS: ADD
ADD ( Attention Deficit Disorder ) is a group of symptoms in which a child is unable to focus for long and has mood swings very often.
It generally occurs in children below 12 years. The three main features of ADD are INATTENTIVITY, HYPERACTIVITY and IMPULSIVITY.However, they do not always coexist.
- A child may be hyperactive, garrulous who does not sit quiet for a minute.
- The child may not be hyperactive always but may be very quiet, always daydreaming.
- The child may have all three features at a time.
To detect whether a child has ADD, experts consider several critical questions:
- Are these behaviors excessive and long-term?
- Do they affect the ability to perform day to day tasks?
- Do other children of the same age behave this way? Is it normal to the age group?
- Are they a continuous problem and not just a response to a temporary situation?
- Does the child behave this way in several settings, or only in one specific place like the playground or at home?
ADD however does not have many physical symptoms and occurs more commonly in boys than in girls. It is more commonly seen in early phase of childhood.
As responsible parents, one must look for the following symptoms if complaints come from school everyday and the child comes back home with poor grades.
- Does the child throw tantrums?
- Does he take care of all his mistakes or does he repeat them?
- Does he seek attention by breaking into conversations when people are talking?
- Is he a patient listener?
- Does he lose things very often?
- Is he forgetful?
- Stimulants for children who are very quiet and inattentive. For example, stimuant drugs like Catecholamines can be used. Non stimulants like Catapres can also be used.
- Cognition enhancing drugs- Aderall and Modafinil.
- Antihypertensives for hyperactive children like methylphenidate and clonidine are used
Behaviour therapy– This approach is a bit different. This is based on motivating the child and making him do what he should-
- Set goals for the child that are reasonable and attractive.
- Use consequences and reward the child for accomplishment of tasks. Appreciation is very important in all sorts of counselling tasks.
Social skills– The experts are made to keep a watch on the child’s behaviour and then he is made to realise how behaving in an orderly way can take him places.
However parents play the most important role in the treatment of such symptoms. Hence they two must be aware and compliant.