Cathy Davidson on How the Brain Science of Attention Will Change Our Lives

January 15, 2012

Duke University's Cathy N. Davidson is the author of "Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn."  She tells Anne Strainchamps why "attention blindness" matters.

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Ms. Davidson's comment about what happens in meditation is not quite correct. In meditation, the mind is not unfocused but quite focused- the task is to focus on the present moment. And it's through that focus on what's actually happening now that the mind slowly becomes aware of the myriad thoughts that pass through it constantly. We need to understand our minds because our thoughts can cause so much suffering- meditation is an ancient and proven method for understanding how we think.

Thank you for the important clarification.

I agree completely. BEING focused is the point of meditation. The DIFFICULTY of focusing when there is nothing external to distract us is exactly the point. In an earlier, longer version of the book, the last chapter was about the Dali Lama's work with Western neuroscientists and about a concept that is extremely important to meditation and to me, personally, what, in Japanese, is katsu: the thunderclap, the moment that turns a life around, but also, literally, the sound of the bamboo stick on the shoulder when the meditator is sure s/he has reached mindfulness but the wise monk knows that is an illusion and makes the disruption to signal: start over, you are not there yet, learn from your own thinking you are there, unlearn your self-confidence, unlearn your habits. The point is that the brain/mind wanders and things far more profound than email distract us all the time. We just tend to blame technology, scapegoat it, when everything--heartache, heartburn, etc--distracts us.

I loved her comments about the fact that we have to change our attitude about education. The charter school initiative will hopefully address the problem. Even though she took criticism about the iPad issue, it was an ingenious way to handle new technology. She was so right about current education methods preparing our students for our past rather then their future! KUDOS Cathy!

Bike activists used the study to lecture motorists to look for bikes - if you're not looking for bikes, you won't see them.
My project is bicycledriver.com and I use the study to show bicyclists how to make themselves visible. Want to be seen in the video? Wear a white t shirt and pass the ball. Bicycing and want to be seen? Get in line with traffic going your direction and behave like a driver.
Thus, people take opposite lessons from the same experiment based on the direction of their thinking.

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