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STEM Matters: The Mind’s Selective Attention
STEM Matters Manager: Marisa Ostos
Are you the type of person who typically pays close attention to detail? Before we get started on a fun psychology lesson, let us watch a video before you continue reading. Watch this video now before reading anything else!!
Were you paying close attention? How many times did you see the players with the white shirts pass the ball? If you’re like most people, you counted 15 passes among the participants with the white shirts. However, if you are like most people, you may have also missed the gorilla walk across the screen. This is what we call “selective attention.”
Selective attention is the mind’s tendency to hone in on certain dynamics, processes, or under-goings of the environment around you. In this case, you may have been so focused on counting the passes, that you missed the gorilla that walked right in front of you, which most people do. Does this mean that you are in any way deficient when it comes to your attention-span? Not at all! In fact, it is a simple, yet fascinating demonstration of the way the mind works. People pay attention to different things for a number of reasons. Three attendees at a football game may be sitting in the same row and watching the same game, but while one focuses on the next move of the quarterback, one may be watching #24 get ready to tackle a player, while the other attendee may have just caught the quick move of the linebacker heading toward the player he was guarding. As when watching a game of football, a number of things happen in the environment all around you each and every day. If we were to remember and take in every process and instance that happened around us in each minute, our mind would most likely be a mess due to the overwhelming amount of stimuli it received each second.
So if you missed that gorilla the first time, don’t worry one bit. Just take in the wonder of the mind’s consciousness and its fascinating ability to be able to focus and comprehend the things we do. Our human-brain is a wonderful organ.