Are you distracted now?

Are you distracted now?

According to statistics, when people are awake, they spend about 46.9% of their time thinking about something other than what they are doing, the so-called mind-wandering (Mind Wa.

according to statistics, when people are awake, they spend about 46.9% of their time thinking about something other than what they are doing, that is, the so-called mind-wandering (Mind Wandering),. Its academic explanation refers to a loss of awareness of attention, that is, attention is separated from the current main or external tasks and points to the psychological process and state of internally generated thoughts and thoughts.

mind wandering makes people unhappy. in 2010, Harvard psychologists Killingsworth and Gilbert analyzed 250000 iPhone app-based data points about how people think, feel and act in their lives and found that mind wandering is often the cause, not the result, of people's unhappiness. The study was eventually published in the journal Science Science.

mind wandering is not always bad. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) in January 2021 refreshes people's perception of mind wandering, suggesting that mind wandering is a positive feature of cognition that can make people more imaginative and creative.

 in order to track people's internal thought processes, the study proposed a method that uses EEG (EEG) to measure people's brain activity while performing attention tasks, thus identifying brain signals when the mind is not focused on the task at hand or wandering aimlessly (especially after focusing on a task). The results show that one of the necessary functions of the brain is to block the external environment and allow our internal thoughts to move freely and creatively, which can promote relaxation and exploration.  

author Robert T. Knight, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, said: "for the first time, we have neurophysiological evidence that distinguishes different patterns of internal thinking, enabling us to understand ideas that are essential to human cognition and to compare healthy thinking with disordered thinking."

 to prepare for the study, 39 participants were first told about the differences between four different types of thinking: task-related, free (mind-wandering), intentional and automatic. Next, wearing electrodes on their heads to measure brain activity, they sat in front of the computer screen and tapped the left and right keys, corresponding to the random left and right keys on the screen. When they completed a sequence, they were asked to rate them on a scale of 1 to 7-their thoughts during the task were task-related, mind-wandering, deliberately restricted, or automatically restricted.

an example of thinking unrelated to the task is this: a student is not studying for the coming exam, but thinking about whether she will get a good grade, and then thinking about the dinner she has not yet prepared. then think that she should exercise more, and finally recall her last vacation, and so on.

in this study, participants were divided into four groups according to their answers and matched with recorded brain activity. It was found that when participants reported that their thoughts were free to move from one topic to another, their alpha wave activity in the frontal cortex increased, and alpha waves were slow brain rhythms. its frequency ranges from 9 to 14 cycles per second, and this pattern of activity is associated with the generation of creative ideas. The researchers also found that P3 brain signals were weakened during non-task thinking. It further provides neural markers for people when they do not pay attention to the task at hand.

 the lead author of the study was Julia Kam, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Calgary when she was a postdoctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley's Knight Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. "this study helps to identify thought patterns associated with a range of mental disorders and attention disorders, and helps to diagnose these diseases," she said. When people's brains are at rest, EEG markers can help researchers and clinicians detect specific thought patterns, even before patients realize where their minds are wandering. "  
 finally, the researchers suggest that if a person focuses on his or her goals all the time, he may miss out on important information. Therefore, the thought process of free association will randomly produce memories and imaginative experiences, which will bring people new ideas and insights.  

so does this study mean that there is something wrong with the results of mind-wandering research revealed a decade ago? No. In fact, as early as the 2010 article, the author mentioned that mind wandering means higher cognitive ability, but at the expense of emotional health. Therefore, it is ideal to maintain a delicate balance between mind wandering and concentration. Here are seven tips to help people control their attention and benefit from mind wandering.

  Seven ways to maintain a flexible switch between mind wandering and focus  
  1 keep the brain busy  

A study by Nilli Lavie at University College London has found that deliberately adding distractions-- fancy borders or background noise on the page-- can actually reduce your distractions. According to her "load theory" (load theory), attention is a limited resource.So if you fill up all the attention grooves in your head, there's no room for distractions.

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  2 reward yourself  

reward yourself to keep people focused, but it only works when the time is right. Giving people a small reward for a boring task won't stop them from losing their attention, but a bigger reward at the end of the task will keep them focused. Michael Esterman of the attention and Learning Lab in Boston, who did the research, says it's best to have an "accomplice" to prevent you from giving in prematurely. Because it's hard to fool yourself.

3 check yourself

there's more than one way to get distracted. Knowing how to wander can save you time. One trick is to make sure your mind hovers over what you need to learn. To do this, you need to test yourself frequently. If people stop every five minutes to test what they remember, they can remember more boring lectures. Their thoughts are still hovering, but they are hovering on the subject rather than anything else.

  4 choose the right time  

PaulSeli, a psychologist at Harvard University, says that stopping occasionally at work gives your brain a chance to distract and allows you to concentrate. If you say to yourself, "now I'm going to think about something irrelevant, maybe solve other things on your mind first, and then return to your task." This is definitely beneficial.

5 try to decompress

you might think that the increase in epinephrine can concentrate, but stress actually stimulates the release of hormones, including norepinephrine, which binds to receptors in the cognitive control circuit. This, in turn, makes it harder for them to pay attention to the loss of their minds.

  6 adequate sleep  

generally speaking, lack of sleep reduces people's concentration and ability to resist internal and external interference. In addition, sleep is also important for consolidating memory. In fact, recent research shows that if you have an hour of free time before the exam, napping may use your time more efficiently than review.

  7 practice graffiti  

in one study, people were asked to listen to a boring recording, and they could remember more if they were allowed to doodle at will later. But the content of the graffiti is very important. Doodling on things related to things you want to remember is more likely to be defined as intentional mind wandering. But don't make it too complicated-if your graffiti is too attractive, the whole thing may backfire.