Small Change in Attention, Big Change in Outcome

Of course you know what you are thinking about right now. Maybe you are thinking about your lunch or the kids or a project you are engaged in. Or maybe you are totally focused on my words right here as you read them.

Even when your mind wanders, you’re more aware of the wandered thought and less aware of the thoughts from which you’ve wandered.

The ability to focus on one train of thought and less on others is called awareness scotoma in which I lock on to one and lock out alternatives. One thought OR another, rather than many.

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Attention Dan and Van!

In the human brain, there are two main attention networks: the dorsal attention network (DAN) and ventral attention network (VAN). Together they work to help us attend to being human.

“The DAN is in charge of directing your attention to something specific, and when it’s active, the VAN is silent. This keeps you focused and limits your distraction. But if you see something that is new, unique, or behaviorally relevant, the VAN will switch on. This give-and-take between the DAN and VAN allows us to reorient our attention to what is most important.”(Patel)

Think of VAN as my brain attending to “learning” and DAN as attending to that which I’ve already “learned.” VAN = Learning, DAN = Learned.

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