Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Scientist explores distractions but gets distracted

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The article below (Click here for full text at Sciencedaily.com) from ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2007) summarizes how the brain fends of distractions but like much scientific research it seems utterly pointless.

How many studies do we need to finally realize that being tired or 'mentally fatigued' affects our performance in some way? Here's the article in summary:

How the brain fends off distractions:

Dutch researcher Harm Veling has demonstrated that our brains fend off distractions. If we are busy with something we suppress disrupting external influences. If we are tired, we can no longer do this...In the event of tiredness, this system no longer seems to work.

Veling asked study subjects to remember words that were strongly associated with each other. For example, fruit-mango, fruit-peach, animal-giraffe, animal-sheep. Subsequently all of these words passed by on a screen and the study subjects had to intend to press a button for a number of these words (for example, mango). Mango is referred to here as an ´intended´ word. Peach is a very similar word and can confuse the study subject. Therefore Veling termed this a distracting word. Sheep has got nothing to do with mango and is therefore a neutral word.

The test revealed that the study subjects remembered distracting words less well than intended and neutral words. Moreover, people who were better at excluding these words from their brains performed the task quicker. Suppressing distraction is therefore useful.

People who were mentally fatigued were no longer able to suppress the distraction. Moreover they scored less well in their task. Suppression is therefore not automatic and costs energy. A humorous example of the principles Veling investigated is the Dutch TV quiz programme Rad van Fortuin (Wheel of Fortune). The candidates of this quiz are brutally distracted whilst answering the questions and can therefore scarcely answer the simplest of questions.

There you have it. Pointless...now here's a picture to distract you and hopefully start you wondering about whether they fell or for that matter would you have the guts to do something like that? Are they more alive than you?

Click on the picture above for something even more distracting!


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