Selective Attention

Brains are amazing. Especially yours. Even mine has its moments. And one of the most fascinating mechanisms of the human brain is how it deals with “focus”.

Have you ever noticed how when you buy a new car, or even when you’ve merely decided what type of car it is you want to buy, you start seeing that same car everywhere!

Or the kettle packs up, the DVD stops playing, and suddenly half a dozen other electrical items in the house decide to turn up their boots, like they’re all suffering from some sort of appliance manic-depression?

Or how you can sleep through a thunderstorm, the traffic noise, and the sounds of revellers returning from a night on the town, but if your new-born’s breathing changes even slightly – in the next room – you’re awake!

Or have you ever seen someone across a crowded room, started to walk towards them, and somehow walked into the table, the person, the immoveable object, that was directly in front of you but momentarily invisible?

Or have you ever fallen in love, fallen out of love, had a tiff, a blazing row, a passing thought about that girl you used to know – and the words of the next song on the radio seem to capture your feelings precisely?

That’s the power of focus. Your brain is extremely good at noticing things, or disregarding things, depending on whatever it is you’re currently focused on.

The following video – a ‘selective attention test’ – is an intriguing demonstration of the brains uncanny ability to focus only on what we deem important. Press the play icon in the middle of the image, and concentrate carefully on the number of times the players in white pass the ball to each other.

You can find out more about this video, and the science behind it at here.

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