Archive for the ‘Attention’ Tag

Changes That Occur When You Pay Attention

Being able to pay close attention is hard to accomplish due to the fact that a person’s attention is dragged in so many different directions during one particular moment. Attention takes many dimensions and unlike what many people think about having focus, it also involves information, which one’s brain is trying to filter.

Our attention is directed in two ways. One is overt attention which involves moving of eyes towards something in order to pay attention to it and the second is the covert attention which is paying attention to something, but without moving the eyes. The brain patterns in overt or covert attention are different. Depending on the one that we are paying attention to, certain parts of one’s brain begin to resonate at the same rate as that of the intensity of our attention and it is possible to tell whether a person is on an overtly or covertly attention.

The filtering ability of the brain is indeed a key for attention. Apparently, this is missing in some people especially those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, thus they hardly restrain any distractors. This means they are not able to sustain extended focus, even on a single task.

The front part of a person’s brain is responsible for higher cognitive functions. It works as a filter to let into the brain just the right information, which will enable a person to pay attention. Now, there is an opportunity for using cognitive brain-machine interfaces; especially, for those suffering from the stroke who are not able to speak or write. Using cognitive brain-machine interfaces, it is now possible to have computers, which could help people understand the thoughts of a person in a coma through the use of brain patterns.


Daydreaming and Attention Lapses

It is common in many everyday situations to suddenly notice that, for some time, we have been focusing on thoughts and feelings that are unrelated to what we are doing. These often unintentional mental states are examples of daydreaming, attention lapses, or mind wandering. During mind wandering, performance of the primary task ceases to be supervised by our attention and, instead, proceeds automatically. Our attention switches from the primary task, and our private thoughts become the focus of awareness. Because mind wandering involves a focus on internal information, these episodes involve a state of decoupled processing, as indicated by its relation to encoding. The experience of catching mind wandering indicates that we often lack awareness that one is off task. The failure to recognize that one is off task suggests that mind wandering involves a temporary failure in the ability to reflect upon the content of one’s own mental state.

If we are unaware that we are off task, we cannot acknowledge that we are mind wandering. In the absence of awareness that one is mind wandering, we cannot instantiate the control processes necessary to remedy the consequences of off-task episodes on performance. However, if we are aware that we are mind wandering, our behavior becomes more flexible, because we can strategically account for some of the negative consequences of off-task experiences.

Thinking about thinking mean you are in a conscious state thinking about your situational awareness. It may not come intuitively or automatically for us to be consciously thinking about our situational awareness while fulfilling all our duties and responsibilities at an emergency scene, but if we are able to elevate awareness to the conscious level, then awareness becomes as important as anything else we may be doing or thinking about. Situational awareness is an individual’s ability to perceive clues and cues about what is happening in his or her environment and to understand the meaning of those clues and cues in the context of how time is passing and then be able to make accurate predictions about future events to avoid bad outcomes.

Right Now, Say Yes to the Life You‘re Living

The day comes when the risk to remain tight in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom. There is scarcely any happiness, passion or success without struggle. Life is a constant climb, but the journey is rewarding and the view is great. It’s just a matter of pushing forward when the going gets tough. What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? It is our attitude towards it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity. You have to create more opportunities than you are handed in this world, and you have to design them with your own blood, sweat and tears. The effort, however, is well worth it.

It shouldn’t be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something is difficult to come by, you will do that much more to make sure it’s even harder or impossible to lose. There is no shortage of problems waiting to be addressed. When you see problems piled on top of problems, and when there seems to be no end comes discontent which is the principal necessity of positive growth, but only if you do something constructive with it. Without deviation from what you’ve been doing, progress is not possible. Don’t be someone who goes through greater lengths to avoid change than you do to obtain what you desire. You must define and embrace the necessary changes that move you forward.

Your life will begin to improve when you define precisely what improvement means to you. The agonies and frustrations will start to ease only when you have something real and positive to replace them with. Be specific. Happiness is not a goal, it’s the result of a life well lived. The question is: How do you want to live going forward? To effectively move away from an unfavorable situation, you must decide exactly where you wish to go. Create a formidable intention for yourself, and feed that intention with the passion and energy that is in your desire for change. Go beyond your discontent for what is, and instead focus on imagining and creating the best of what is possible. Clearly, know where you wish to go, and then take the first real step that gets you there.

There is no shortage of problems waiting to be addressed. When you see problems piled on top of problems, and when there seems to be no end to the work that must be done in order to resolve them, what are you really seeing? You’re looking at a mountain of opportunity. You’re looking at a situation in which you can truly make a difference. You’re looking at an environment where you can reach great heights by raising the stakes and pulling the reality of what’s possible along with you. When you look at a problem, but see opportunity instead, you become a powerful source that transforms grief into greatness. There is no shortcut to a great achievement. There is no substitute for doing the work. Meditate on this every day: I will do the work. As Einstein says, genius is 1 percent talent and 99 percent hard work. You must run to be a runner. You must write to be a writer. You must actively work on a business venture to learn how to run a successful business.

By all means, find ways to be more efficient in your work. But make no mistake that it takes diligent effort to build something worthwhile. There are certainly some success stories out there about people who excelled rather quickly, but you will usually find they had put in years of related work long before anyone was paying attention to their seemingly rapid success. In other words, their current state of achievement is simply all those years of work coming together flawlessly in the present.

Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed. Lack of focus, not lack of ability, is the most common problem that holds people back from their potential. We all have strengths and difficulties, and we all have the same twenty-four hour days and seven-day weeks to work with. If you find it difficult to deal with where you are, or how life is treating you, it’s time to change your focus. Start focusing on what you want going forward. Set a specific goal, keep your routine centered on it, and you’ll find the strength to move steadily in a positive direction. When you focus on the right thing, even the difficult steps will seem easier. The burdens of the moment become much more bearable when you connect with the purpose behind them.

Your time, energy, and resources will get used no matter how well you focus them. By choosing to focus properly, you get the highest return for the efforts you invest in your life. Our thoughts about what we are and what we can be precisely determine what we can be. The reality you live through daily is a process of your thinking. You are essentially who you design yourself to be—most of what you experience is the direct result of your own creation. This reality cannot be changed without first changing your thinking.

There are lots of inherent events in life that occur completely independently of you—birth, death, loss, sickness, aging, and unexpected changes of all kinds—but these life events do not have to cause ongoing confusion and suffering. They happen, you experience a little stress, you adjust, and you move forward. The problem occurs when you don’t adjust and move forward, when your mind clings to these events in a negative light and intensifies their significance into perpetuity. If your mind does this, of course, it completely overlooks the subtle feelings of excitement, adventure, love, and joy that come from the essence of overcoming a new challenge. Ninety nine percent of the time the discontent and frustration you feel is entirely your own creation. If you dwell on the positive thoughts and possibilities at least as much as you dwell on negative thoughts and painful emotions, life’s challenges help you improve your reality.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. No matter what you’re going to make mistakes; it’s an unavoidable truth. But the good news is; if you follow your heart and intuition, the mistakes you make will be steps in the right direction. Just because you fail once at something doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on and believe in yourself. Keep your head held high, your chin up, and above all, smile, because the most beautiful part of it all is that there’s so much left to smile about.

Life is what you make it. It is a wild rollercoaster. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does, and then just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. Every day is a beautiful mystery. Let go of yesterday’s mistakes and enjoy the mystery as it unfolds today. For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain. What you must realize is that you don’t really need more time; you just need to appreciate life in the current time. It’s a beautiful and bitter way of thinking all at once. If you don’t have what you want now, you don’t have what you want, but you still have a lot. Be thankful for what is; and also be thankful for what has not yet come to you, for that means there are still many possibilities available to you.

Find peace in the thought that you can’t ever have it all or know it all. You are always just a fraction of the whole. For if you weren’t, there would be nothing more to experience. Value what you know, and also value the countless things you don’t yet understand. For in what you do not understand, there is the joy of growth. Life will always be incomplete and a bit asymmetrical. Realize this and embrace it. Be happy and sad at the same time, be hungry and thankful at the same time, be nervous and excited at the same time, and be okay with it.

Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith. Believe in yourself through tough times. Believe in your capacity to succeed. Believe that your relationships are worth the effort. Believe that people make mistakes on their way to greatness. Believe that people can be foolish and intelligent, selfish and generous, and stressed and happy all at once. Believe that very few people hurt others on purpose. Believe that there are many roads to what’s right. Believe in your intuition, especially when you have to choose between two good paths. Believe that the answers are out there waiting. Believe that life will surprise you again and again. Believe that the journey is the destination. Believe that it’s all worth your while.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. Regardless of what’s happened in the past or what might happen in the future, it’s being here now that’s important. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t edit it; we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if it will ever come. This moment – right now – is your life. Say yes to it. Don’t ignore it by pretending that you’re living in some other time and place. You aren’t – doing so is impossible. The only life you can live is the only life there is – the moment you are in right now. Ignoring this fact is reckless. Ignoring it is denying reality, and denying reality is rejecting the entire process of living.

Start paying attention to the present. Start paying attention to your life. Right now, say yes to the life you‘re living and notice how it starts to flow with you rather than against you.


I do formal loving attention every day, as well as loving attention in the moment. It feels good to set aside a special time to give loving attention with so many others. I feel there is really good vibe in my work today, similar to what one often feels in meditating or praying with a group of people or Sat Sangha.

While there are many formal forms for the steps in loving attention in various traditions, in general there is a basic expanding progression of attention. First giving loving attention to oneself, then a close or dear friend, then a neutral person; someone we know but don’t really have a relationship with, and then, the difficult person, and then all of these equally, and then in expanding spheres of loving kindness, one eventually embraces all beings everywhere and finally, the entire universe.

If you find it hard to give loving attention to yourself, as many of us seem to, then start with loving attention for a beloved pet, or plant, or even a place that evokes warm and loving feeling in you. This is a skillful means of getting around stuck places, like the inability to love oneself. To light a fire, start with kindling someone or something you love.

In general, when doing loving attention, follow the steps of expanding love, but sometimes my loving attention is very free form, like a good jazz improvisation, and I listen to what is calling to me from the world and to what my heart seeks to address. This helps give loving attention and well-wishes a specific focus. But after some time, you may feel a shift, and your heart might be drawn to new affirmations and intentions. For example, while contemplating “May All Beings Be Free from Suffering,” I found new loving attention focal points arising in my mind. Trusting my heart, I stayed with each until I felt I had established a clear sense of loving presence and embrace of those involved. Here is what arose for my todays loving attention like let those struggling to be born, be born and live. May those struggling to give birth, give birth safely and without pain. Let those in danger, find safety and see how to find safety. May those struggling with death, be free of fear and feel loved. Let those struggling with death, let go of life and death, and find refuge in presence and being.

Many more specific focal points come to mind as we open up our heart, and there is often a tremendous sense of flow and feeling directed to where the loving attention is needed, but sometimes, there is clearly a need to stop and really zero in on some place of resistance, or pain, or sorrow, or hurt. Often, when recalling some suffering in the world, I would be led back to giving loving attention to suffering in myself and vice versa, often working through pain and stuck places in my own heart. I naturally move outward to share that loving attention clarity and open up my heart to those in the world who might be having similar struggles.

The truth is we can’t really separate our own happiness and well-being from that of others. To be human is to live in relationship. As my teacher likes to say, we have inter-being and we inter-are with all things and all things with us, for even as we are individual and unique, we are also individual and unique in relationship to what is not our self. Indeed, we are literally made up of not self elements, for that is the very nature of what the Buddha called dependent origination or co-origination. In my own practice, I have found that loving attention practice is every bit as skillful a means as meditation in helping to break down the painful barriers between self and other.

So, with loving attention, as with all of the multifarious facets of the Buddha Dharma, the big idea is to practice, to just do it, and regularly. Like a good musician, to improve, we will do a lot of formal hard work—what the great jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis calls “going to the shed and “chopping wood.” There’s just no way around it! On the other hand, in the practice of loving attention, if you start with the formal sequence, be open to some improvisation. Listen carefully to your heart and pay attention to where there is contraction and tightness, and where there is opening up and spaciousness.

Listen also to where your heart or personal, or family, or world events may be calling you to give loving attention. You may want to go there or you may not! Sometimes, the monkey-mind wants to flit from object to object, with no depth, no feeling, no real heart. Giving loving attention is not a filibuster! It’s not positive thinking or is it rote mindless repetition of “may you be happy” or any other phrase or mantra. Loving attention is in fact, meditation, wherein the “object” of meditation is not one’s breath, or other anchor, but the loving attention itself—the feeling of well-being and love being given to and embracing another.

The loving attention embracing its object is itself the focus of attention, and when our mind drifts off, as it surely will, countless times—no problems!—our mindfulness will eventually note that and help us bring our focus of attention back to our object of loving attention. When you bring it back, bring it back with a smile to yourself, as the Buddhist teacher Bhante Vimalaramsi always says. Smile and relax, letting go of any tightness or tension that may have arisen when we lost our attention


Feature Integration Theory

Anne Treisman and Garry Gelade suggests that when perceiving a stimulus, features are "registered early, automatically, and in parallel, while objects are identified separately" and at a later stage in processing. The theory has been one of the most influential psychological models of human visual attention.

According to Treisman, the first stage of the feature integration theory is the preattentive stage. Perception occurs automatically, unconsciously, effortlessly, and early in the perceptual process. During this stage, the object is analyzed for details such as shape, color, orientation and movement, with each aspect being processed in different areas of the brain. The idea that features are automatically separated appears to be counterintuitive; however, we are not aware of this process because it occurs early in perceptual processing, before we become conscious of the object.

The second stage of the feature integration theory is the focused attention stage, where the individual features of an object combine in order to perceive the whole object. In order to combine the individual features of an object, attention is required and selection of that object occurs within a “master map” of locations. The master map of locations contains all of the locations in which features have been detected, with each location in the master map having access to the multiple feature maps. When attention is focused at a particular location on the map, the features currently in that position are attended to and are stored in "object files". If the object is familiar, associations are made between the object and prior knowledge, which results in identification of that object. In support of this stage, researchers often refer to patients suffering from Balint’s syndrome. Due to damage in the parietal lobe, these people are unable to focus attention on individual objects. When given stimuli that requires combining features, people suffering from Balint’s syndrome are unable to focus attention long enough to combine the features, providing support for this stage of the theory.

Treisman distinguishes between two kinds of visual search tasks, "feature search" and "conjunction search." Feature searches can be performed fast and pre-attentively for targets defined by only one feature, such as color, shape, perceived direction of lighting, movement, or orientation. Features should "pop out" during search and should be able to form illusory conjunctions. Conversely, conjunction searches occur with the combination of two or more features and are identified serially. Conjunction search is much slower than feature search and requires conscious attention and effort. In multiple experiments, some referenced in this article, Treisman concluded that color, orientation, and intensity are features for which feature searches may be performed.

As a reaction to the feature integration theory, Wolfe proposed the Guided Search Model 2.0. According to this model, attention is directed to an object or location through a preattentive process. The preattentive process, as Wolfe explains, directs attention in both a bottom-up and top-down way. Information acquired through both bottom-up and top-down processing is ranked according to priority. The priority ranking guides visual search and makes the search more efficient. Whether the Guided Search Model 2.0 or the feature integration theory is correct theory of visual search is still a hotly debated topic.

In order to test the idea that attention plays a vital role in visual perception, Treisman and Schmidt designed an experiment to show that features may exist independently of one another early in processing. Participants were shown a picture involving four objects hidden by two black numbers. The display was flashed for one-fifth of a second followed by a random-dot masking field that appeared on screen to eliminate any residual perception that might remain after the stimuli were turned off. Participants were to report the black numbers they saw at each location where the shapes had previously been. The results of this experiment verified Treisman and Schmidt’s hypothesis.

In 18% of trials, participants reported seeing shapes “made up of a combination of features from two different stimuli,” even when the stimuli had great differences; this is often referred to as an illusory conjunction. Specifically, illusory conjunctions occur in various situations. For example, you may identify a passing person wearing a red shirt and yellow hat and very quickly transform him or her into one wearing a yellow shirt and red hat. The feature integration theory provides explanation for illusory conjunctions; because features exist independently of one another during early processing and are not associated with a specific object, they can easily be incorrectly combined both in laboratory settings, as well as in real life situations.

Balint’s syndrome patients have provided support for the feature integration theory; particularly, research participant, a Bálint’s syndrome sufferer who was unable to focus attention on individual objects, experienced illusory conjunctions when presented with simple stimuli such as a "blue O" or a "red T." In 23% of trials, even when able to view the stimulus for as long as 10 seconds, participant reported seeing a "red O" or a "blue T". This finding is in accordance with feature integration theory’s prediction of how one with a lack of focused attention would erroneously combine features.

If people use their prior knowledge or experience to perceive an object, they are less likely to make mistakes or illusory conjunctions. In order to explain this phenomenon, Treisman and Souther conducted an experiment in which they presented three shapes to participants where illusory conjunctions could exist. Surprisingly, when she told participants that they were being shown a carrot, lake, and tire in place of the orange triangle, blue oval, and black circle, respectively, illusory conjunctions did not exist. Treisman maintained that prior-knowledge played an important role in proper perception. Normally, bottom-up processing is used for identifying novel objects; but, once we recall prior knowledge, top-down processing is used. This explains why people are good at identifying familiar objects rather than unfamiliar.

When identifying letters while reading, not only are their shapes picked up but also other features like their colors and surrounding elements. Individual letters are processed serially when spatially conjoined with another letter. The locations of each feature of a letter are not known in advance, even while the letter is in front of the reader. Since the location of the letter’s features and or the location of the letter is unknown feature interchanges can occur if one is not attentively focused. This is known as lateral masking, which in this case, refers to a difficulty in separating a letter from the background.

To summarize, in perceiving objects we may synthesize conjunctions of separable features by directing attention serially to each item in turn. This feature-integration theory predicts that when attention is diverted or overloaded, features may be wrongly recombined, giving rise to illusory conjunctions. The presentation confirms that illusory conjunctions are frequently experienced among unattended stimuli varying in color and shape, and that they occur also with size and solidity; outlined versus filled-in shapes. They are shown both in verbal recall and in simultaneous and successive matching tasks, making it unlikely that they depend on verbal labeling or on memory failure. They occur as often between stimuli differing on many features as between more similar stimuli, and spatial separation has little effect on their frequency. Each feature seems to be coded as an independent entity and to migrate, when attention is diverted, with few constraints from the other features of its source or destination.

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Engrossed Attention

Black and white fits well to be caught unaware in engrossed attention…

Posted January 10, 2013 by dranilj1 in Photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

God’s Attention

If these mountains had eyes, they wake up to find two strangers (Mounir Georges & Anil) at their feet, standing in admiration as violet hue air pours on the shore. These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, wish thunder praise, but are silent with the intention that man’s weak praise should be given God’s attention.

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