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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.

.--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them and withdrawn from other things that we are scarcely aware of what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



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.