Tag Archives: attention

distracted school girl

Mind Wandering versus Mindfulness: Finding the Middle Path

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Mindfulness. It seems to be the holy grail for everything these days. From productivity improvement to psychotherapy. It also seems to be something we are not particularly good at, as this episode of South Park hilariously illustrates (skip forward to minute 10). A 2010 study by Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that we are mentally absent for half of our waking hours.

In Howard Rheingold’s 1993 book Virtual Communities, one of the earliest works to chronicle the reality of life online, he laid out two rules for the coming age: “Rule Number One is to pay attention. Rule Number Two might be: attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.”

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Why are we so distracted these days? It was never this bad just one technology generation ago, was it? Or is it my selective memory? I ask because Joshua Rothman has two hypotheses for why this might be true, which he describes in an intriguing article in the June issue of the New Yorker. Special thanks to Lynn Strother at HFES headquarters for sending me the link.

Still, for all our expertise, distraction retains an aura of mystery. It’s hard to define: it can be internal or external, habitual or surprising, annoying or pleasurable.

a man viewing an ebook

EID Hall of Fame – A New Take on eBook Reading

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There have been several articles posted on the EID site over the past year that have aroused significant discussion. Here is one of the articles that received the most discussion, reposted for your reading pleasure. Were you one of our loyal readers who shared, reposted, and debated it? Did that experience provide tangible professional value for you, or just hours of fun? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

We have had many conversations over the past years about how the move to digital books is impacting our reading. Some claims are backed up by rigorous research and some are just pure speculation or even fear mongering. Of course, whenever there are strong claims on both sides of an argument, the truth is usually a nuanced middle path and eBooks are no different. The reality is that the effectiveness of eBooks is context specific and results will depend on what the objectives of the book are (for example entertainment versus education) and how they are implemented (UI and UX).

a facebook notification

How Long Do We Have to Wait for Effective Notifications?

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I have been sitting on this topic for over a year. I finally am breaking down. After the CES show, I don’t see anything better on the market right now, but this idea for operating system–level notification modeling from Shruti Gandhi has given be enough hope to propose some ideas.

One answer could be consolidation. Snowball is almost headed in the right direction. Snowball consolidates all your alerts in one place.

a woman looking at her cell phone while driving

Cell Phone Distraction is About More Than Driving

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There is a great new study from Bill Thornton out of the University of Southern Maine.

The mere sight of your mobile phone can distract you – even if you are not using it…

a baseball in the grass

Neuro Scout

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Quoting the inimitable Yogi Berra “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical,” Larry Greenemeier over at Scientific American brought to my attention a new technology being developed at the Columbia University Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing called the NeuroScout.

Batters facing professional or collegiate pitching must make extremely quick perceptual decisions—a pitch takes only about 600 milliseconds to cross home plate after the pitcher releases it…

a man viewing an ebook

A New Take on eBook Reading

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We have had many conversations over the past years about how the move to digital books is impacting our reading. So I was happy to see this paper from Heather and Jordan Schugar at West Chester University.

Multi-Touch devices and tablet computers allow readers to interact with text in new and innovative ways. However, reading comprehension research with multi-touch devices is still in its infancy and students will need to adapt new reading strategies in order to maximize their learning in this environment…

a man looking through the steering wheel of a car

Conversations and Driver Distraction

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As always, this month has some great articles in Human Factors.

There is one in particular that I want to highlight today. This study investigates the impact of conversation on driving performance.

In the present research, we investigated the hypothesis that working memory mediates conversation-induced impairment of situation awareness (SA) while driving.

a woman looking at a computer screen

Unexpected Places Where People Direct Their Visual Attention

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Several studies recently have disproved the common wisdom that users don’t scroll down past the visual image that originally appears on the screen. I think this article summarizes the basic idea and cites a lot of good sources. They speculate that the reason is that in the 90s we just weren’t used to scrolling so it wasn’t part of our screen parsing habit. But now we are used to it, expect it, so we do…

An image of smart watch next to a smart phone.

Do Smartwatches Satisfy a Real User Need or Just a Fun Novelty?

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WIRED magazine recently had a story suggesting that Google is the company that can succeed with smartwatches where others have failed. I completely agree with their justification, but I am still not convinced about the smart watch. “Amidst speculation that Apple’s long-fabled iWatch might in fact be a health-specific wristband, Android Wear is clearly aiming for something much bigger.”…