Tuesday, December 18, 2007


The Informed Reader (B10, WSJ) scoops the Dec. 15 New Scientist on something all students/workers can relate to: whether having a certain number of distractions could actually boost concentration. Bracketed material mine.

For people who find it difficult to concentrate at work, some scientists suggest the problem is too few distractions [!!], not too many.

Scientists used to think that the act of concentrating itself might screen out distractions. But researchers such as Nilli Lavie at University College London [the sun truly never sets on the British Empire--always coming up with bright new ideas] believe that making a deliberate effort to concentrate isn't enough to filter out irrelevant information.

Instead, the brain becomes more engaged in tasks as the visual demands of the problem increase and effectively block additional stimuli. In practical terms, the research could be used to improve children's textbooks [or some certain college textbooks I can think of: for instance, the calculus text my father used when HE was in high school], or to add textured backgrounds or moving images to enhance dull slide presentations. [Or you could just have more interesting content?]

Interesting, no?


MathewK said...

I remember hearing a long time ago about this technique of using colors to teach, apparently some people respond to the same bit of info much better if it's in a different color.

But this only works to an extent, because if you're just not into calculus and advanced atom mapping or something, putting it in hot pink or powder blue won't help.

Hannah said...

True, MK. However, there is at least one situation in which judicious use of color is definitely helpful: dyslexia. My experiences working with dyslexic friends and clients (in the English assistance area at my college) show that each student may be helped by an individual color background. For example, one of my friends who was dyslexic used yellow-tinted glasses when he read, while another used clear red cellophane; the particular colors made the letters stop swimming around.