A personal blog.

The Distracted Mind by A. Gazzaley and L. D. Rosen

  • Thu 20 January 2022
  • Books

In their book, Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen explain that our cognitive control abilities required to accomplish goals have not developed to the same degree as our executive functions used for goal setting. We have limitations in distributing and sustaining attention, working memory capacity and fidelity, and in managing and switching between competing objectives. These constraints manifest themselves in our sensitivity to goal interference, which leads to the Distracted Mind.

The technological inventions of our time - the Internet, social media, and smartphones - have exacerbated the problem, as they exploit each of the limitations of cognitive control. Since we are information-seeking creatures, the availability of information at any time and place, and the increased anxiety of missing something important, cause us to jump from one Internet source to another. This behavior results in multitasking, task switching, and continuous partial attention. Unfortunately, our ancient brains have proven to be unprepared for the challenges of the high-tech world.

To aid the Distracted Mind, the authors suggest several practices to improve cognitive control abilities. Physical exercise, meditation, exposure to nature, and even video games are among those. They also offer some strategies for behavior change, such as limiting access to distracting technology, increasing metacognition, and minimizing boredom and anxiety. These can help us take control of our attention, avoid multitasking, and become less susceptible to goal interference.

If you read Russian, you may be interested to browse the mindmap I've created to outline the book.

Further reading

  • N. Davidson, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (New York: Viking Press, 2011).
  • S. Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011).
  • P. A. Lewis, The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).