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So you really can pay attention to two things at once? Really?!

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Post by Carla » Sun September 19th, 2010, 12:30 pm

The BBC had a story on this topic a few weeks ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11035055

I think there's some truth in the suggestion that using the same bit of the brain to do two things at once doesn't work very well. I know I can't process two separate streams of language efficiently at the same time, e.g. I can't type an email of any complexity while also holding a conversation. Using two different bits of the brain to process different tasks (e.g. walking or cooking while talking) works better.
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Post by michellemoran » Sun September 19th, 2010, 3:43 pm

I wonder if/how this applies to writers who work to music or in a cafe. Does the brain have to work extra hard to filter out the noise? Or is it so soothing/common that the brain doesn't have to work at all on filtering?

Wish I'd caught that NPR program. Great stuff!
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Post by Ludmilla » Sun September 19th, 2010, 4:01 pm

At my place of work you get left behind if you can't text, read email, participate on a conf call, and talk to other people all at the same time. It has also created the unfortunate cultural side effect, that nothing is to be prioritized anymore because everyone wants to get every task off their plate as soon as it comes in. i often feel like I work for the boy who cried wolf, working for people who create crises just to be instantly gratified... There are some tasks too that require deliberation to be done properly and mistakes are made because no one spends the time they should thinking things through.

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Post by SonjaMarie » Sun September 19th, 2010, 5:26 pm

There used to be a time when I would watch TV, read and listen to music at the same time, but I can't do that now!

If I read when the TV is on, it's usually during commercials. And I can't listen to music when I read any more cause the headphones were giving me migraines, so I don't even listen to my Ipod all that much any more either :(

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Post by LoveHistory » Sun September 19th, 2010, 6:07 pm

In my house there are always mutliple streams of sounds going on. For example: husband is vacuuming; one kid is humming, two kids are playing, and a movie is running. Granted, I'm not trying to pay close attention to all of those, but I think I have learned how to block out some of the background when necessary, and still be concious of the important stuff.

I'm going to try that test when the vacuuming is done.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Sun September 19th, 2010, 8:12 pm

[quote=""michellemoran""]I wonder if/how this applies to writers who work to music or in a cafe. Does the brain have to work extra hard to filter out the noise? Or is it so soothing/common that the brain doesn't have to work at all on filtering?

[/quote]

I can't speak as a writer, but as a reader I can say that for me it absolutely works this way. This is why I do almost no reading in public places -- I am so easily distracted by people and movement and noises (and why do they have to play the music so LOUD at Starbucks, anyway?!:eek :) . I can literally feel my gray cells straining to concentrate on my book. As a consequence, I get very little reading done. Occasionally I will read at a quiet reading room at a library, but mostly I do my reading at home. Or on a bench in the shade outside on my lunch hour :) .

I can have background music, as long as it's low and instrumental only -- no vocals. Most of the time, though, I don't bother. I don't mind the peace and quiet, with only the sound of my wall clock ticking. :)

Even at my job, I occasionally struggle with too much noise. I do accounting and report writing, both of which require a lot of concentration. Occasionally some of my coworkers who sit right outside of my office -- who do less tedious work (and who seem to have a much lighter workload than I do! :p ) -- will get to talking a bit loud, and if I'm working on a problem that's got my brain twisted in knots, anyway, I have to shut my office door so I can focus. I don't like to do that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. :o

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Sun September 19th, 2010, 10:46 pm

Incidentally, in the NPR segment I heard, it was mentioned that the "gorilla test" is used by a lot of police departments.... apparently to test officers' (or potential officers') ability to be aware of everything going on around them.

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Post by Madeleine » Wed September 22nd, 2010, 3:57 pm

When the TV commercials come on, my mum gets engrossed in a puzzle book as she can't stand the ads!
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Post by Michy » Sat September 25th, 2010, 3:06 am

I can't stand ads, either, which is the main reason I listen to NPR. Actually, I wouldn't mind ads if I only had to hear them once -- some of them are quite clever or funny. But it absolutely drives me nuts to have to hear them more than once (or even several times, God forbid), no matter how funny they might have been the first time.

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Post by Madeleine » Sat September 25th, 2010, 4:39 pm

Are the ads in the US louder than the TV programmes? Over here we have to turn the sound down for the ads, and companies have admitted that they do make the ads louder!
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