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Nature Of Attention








It is by attention that we gather and mass our mental energy upon the
critical and important points in our thinking. In the last chapter we
saw that consciousness is not distributed evenly over the whole field,
but piled up, now on this object of thought, now on that, in obedience
to interest or necessity. The concentration of the mind's energy on one
object of thought is attention.

THE NATURE OF ATTENTION.--Everyone knows what it is to attend. The story
so fascinating that we cannot leave it, the critical points in a game,
the interesting sermon or lecture, the sparkling conversation--all these
compel our attention. So completely is our mind's energy centered on
them and withdrawn from other things that we are scarcely aware of what
is going on about us.

We are also familiar with another kind of attention. For we all have
read the dull story, watched the slow game, listened to the lecture or
sermon that drags, and taken part in conversation that was a bore. We
gave these things our attention, but only with effort. Our mind's energy
seemed to center on anything rather than the matter in hand. A thousand
objects from outside enticed us away, and it required the frequent
mental jerk to bring us to the subject in hand. And when brought back
to our thought problem we felt the constant tug of mind to be free
again.

NORMAL CONSCIOUSNESS ALWAYS IN A STATE OF ATTENTION.--But this very
effort of the mind to free itself from one object of thought that it may
busy itself with another is because attention is solicited by this
other. Some object in our field of consciousness is always exerting an
appeal for attention; and to attend to one thing is always to attend
away from a multitude of other things upon which the thought might
rest. We may therefore say that attention is constantly selecting in
our stream of thought those aspects that are to receive emphasis and
consideration. From moment to moment it determines the points at which
our mental energy shall be centered.





Next: The Effects Of Attention

Previous: Problems In Observation And Introspection



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