Since 2010, I have been researching the impact of communication technology and like most things in life, there are both positive and negative outcomes in the advance of science.
One aspect that keeps on recurring is the effect of continuous partial attention. If you have not heard the phrase before, I can wager that you have done it and been the recipient of it, at least some point today.
Continuous partial attention is the act of paying attention to different sources of information at the same time. So if you have been chatting to someone whilst simultaneously looking down at your smartphone and scanning that, you are engaging in continuous partial attention. Neither activity has your full attention. Do this in a restaurant or a busy home and there are lots of other stimuli competing for your attention too!
Whilst our brains process information really fast (faster than any machine on the planet), what happens is that the part of your brain used in cognition, to make decisions etc (pre-frontal cortex) quickly gets over-loaded: and stress results. Plus, over time you find it more difficult to concentrate. Have you noticed how you can’t quite pay attention to read an entire article in a newspaper or online recently?
Whilst long-term stress has bad consequences for our health, another result of continuous partial attention is particularly appropriate to mention during the festive season. It is affecting our relationships. Presumably, no-one wants their child/friend/partner to feedback to others that they did not see you at Christmas because even though you were in the same room together, you were always “somewhere else”.
This Christmas, free yourself from addictive distraction and being always connected to the outside world. Enjoy giving your full focused attention to those that you will be sharing it with. They will notice a difference… and it will be the best gift!