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Brain teaser to test your attentional focus and multi-tasking abilities


How often do you review and com­ment on a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a col­league about an unre­lat­ed mat­ter? Or think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his home­work? Read the rest of this entry »

Your brain on puzzles: Insights come with a wider focus of attention.

A fas­ci­nat­ing New York Time arti­cle on solv­ing puz­zles: Why you do it, how you do it, and what’s going on in your brain while you do it.

The appeal of puz­zles goes far deep­er than the dopamine-reward rush of find­ing a solu­tion. The very idea of doing a cross­word or a Sudoku puz­zle typ­i­cal­ly shifts the brain into an open, play­ful state.

There are dif­fer­ent ways to solve a puz­zle: an ana­lyt­i­cal way of tri­al and errors and an “insight” or cre­ative way.  Read the rest of this entry »

Test your attentional focus: is multi-tasking a good thing?

aaHow often do you lis­ten to the office gos­sip while fill­ing in forms? Or read a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a client? Or think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his home­work?

We are con­stant­ly assault­ed by lots of infor­ma­tion and often required to per­form sev­er­al tasks at once. It is not easy to stay focused. How­ev­er being able to stay focused is cru­cial to achieve suc­cess. Indeed, if you are lis­ten­ing to the office gos­sip while fill­ing in forms, you will prob­a­bly make mis­takes. If you try to read a doc­u­ment while talk­ing on the phone with a client, you will prob­a­bly sound dis­tant and unin­ter­est­ed to your client and may not get the con­tract you expect­ed to get. If you think about your prob­lems at work while help­ing your child with his home­work, you will prob­a­bly miss oppor­tu­ni­ties to teach her some­thing.

As you may notice all the sit­u­a­tions above involve doing more than one thing at a time. Mul­ti-task­ing is ene­my num­ber one when it comes to accu­rate and speedy per­for­mance.

Human atten­tion is lim­it­ed. Think about your atten­tion­al focus as the beam of a light. If the light is on an object it can­not be on oth­er objects at the same time with the same inten­si­ty. Only dim light will be avail­able to light up the objects in the periph­ery. The same hap­pens in your atten­tion­al sys­tem. Divid­ing atten­tion results in less atten­tion­al pow­er devot­ed to all the dif­fer­ent tasks that you are try­ing to do at the same time. The more tasks, the less atten­tion can be devot­ed to each. The result is more errors and waste of time. Although we all have the feel­ing that mul­ti­task­ing saves us time, it is often not the case.

Try the exer­cise below to test your atten­tion­al focus. Three words have been com­bined to make this grid of let­ters. How many times does each of these words appear…? Can you com­pare your per­for­mance while search­ing for just one word vs. two of them at the same time?

How many times is the word SUN shown?
How many times is the word BUS shown?
How many times is the word NONE shown?

Solu­tions: Read the rest of this entry »

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