Tag Archives: Attention

Clothing Influences Thinking and Behavior, not Just Others’ Perceptions

A previous post highlighted the influence of the body on thinking, through “embodied cognition.”

Hajo Adam

Hajo Adam

An extension of this idea is “unclothed cognition,” the impact of clothing on thinking and behavior, according to Rice University’s Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University.

Adam and Galinsky considered the symbolic meaning of clothing and wearer’s physical experience by evaluating the impact of wearing a lab coat on participants’ task performance.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the experiments, volunteers said in a survey that they associated “attentiveness” and “carefulness” with “a lab coat.”
Next, participants completed a Stroop Test, a task that requires selective attention to differentiate words in incongruent colors (“red” presented in green letters), while wear a lab coat or their street clothes.

Volunteers performed better when they wore a lab coat than when they completed the same tasks while wearing street clothes.

In other experiments, Adam and Galinsky described the lab coat to some participants as a “doctor’s coat” and to others as a  “painter’s coat.”
Volunteers who wore a “doctor’s coatperformed better on sustained attention tasks and were better able to discriminate features in nearly-similar images, than those who wore a  “painter’s coat.” 

Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis

Clothing’s symbolic meaning as visual communication can influence the viewer’s attributions and the wearer’s behavioral alignment with the role suggested by clothing, argued Joshua I. Davis of Barnard College, who studied the effect of BOTOX injections on emotional experience.

Sandra Forsythe

Sandra Forsythe

Clothing’s impact on others’ evaluation of the wearer was further detailed by Sandra Forsythe, now of Auburn University collaborated with University of Tennessee’s Mary F. Drake, and Charles E. Cox.
They videotaped simulated job interviews of women wearing various styles of dress, and found that more than 75 human resources professionals recommended hiring female job applicants who wore more “masculine” attire than those wearing other styles of dress.

Norah Dunbar

Norah Dunbar

Clothing’s influence on the viewers’ impression of others’ credibility was investigated by University of Oklahoma’s Norah E. Dunbar and Chris Segrin of University of Arizona guided by their colleague Judee Burgoon‘s expectancy violation theory.

Chris Segrin

Chris Segrin

Two instructors gave lectures in undergraduate college classes, wearing either expected “appropriate” attire for this role, or wearing unconventionally casual clothing.
The instructors also provided either high interpersonal support or less rewarding interactions.

Judee Burgoon

Judee Burgoon

Dunbar and Segrin found that students were less influenced by unexpected attire when the instructor provided more social rewards.
They suggested that interpersonal demeanor can be even more influential than clothing in determining impressions of credibility and likability.

Similarly, the impact of clothing on judgments of competence and achievement for both students and teachers in Ohio high schools was demonstrated in research by Bowling Green State’s Dorothy Behling with Elizabeth Williams.

Anat Rafaeli

Anat Rafaeli

Clothing’s influence on impression formation and related organizational dynamics is based on attributes, homogeneity and conspicuousness, posited Anat Rafaeli of Technion, and Boston College’s Michael Pratt.

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt

Clothing has been considered an important influence on others’ perception of the wearer, and Adam and Galinsky’s studies offer evidence that clothing can affect the wearer’s actual task performance.

-*How has clothing changed your workplace behavior and performance?
-*How do others treat you different depending on your attire?

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Brief Aerobic Exercise Increases Attention, Reading Performance

Michele Tine

Michele Tine

As little as 12 minutes of aerobic exercise increased selective attention and reading comprehension scores for low-income young adults at a highly selective, ”academically elite” (“Ivy League”) US undergraduate university, reported Dartmouth College’s Michele T. Tine and Allison G. Butler of Bryant University.

Alison Butler

Alison Butler

Even these highly-skilled participants, admitted to one of the US’s top academic institutions, had significantly different scores on Selective Visual Attention (SVA) and reading comprehension pre-test tasks, depending on their socio-economic status.

Courtney Stevens

Courtney Stevens

Selective Visual Attention (SVA) is the ability to focus on visual targets while ignoring irrelevant stimuli, and an Executive Function” (EF) required for academic and on-the-job learning, according to University of Oregon’s Courtney Stevens and Daphne Bavelier of University of Rochester.

Specifically, selective attention predicts skills in:

according to University of Oregon’s Stevens with Brittni Lauinger and Helen Neville.

Daniel Hackman

Daniel Hackman

Executive Functions, like Selective Visual Attention (SVA,) are positively correlated to socioeconomic status, found University of Pennsylvannia’s Daniel A Hackman and Martha J Farah, indicating that people with financial advantages often perform better on Executive Function tasks than people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Eric Zillmer

Eric Zillmer

One well-validated measure of Selective Visual Attention (SVA) is the d2 Test of Attention, rapid trials of a manual letter cancellation task, developed by Rolf Brickenkamp and Eric Zillmer of Drexel University.
Participants Tine and Butler’s investigation indicated when they observed the target character among visual distractors.

John Best

John Best

One intervention to increase Executive Function skills, including Selective Visual Attention (SVA) is aerobic exercise, according to University of British Columbia’s John Best.

James Williams

James Williams

In addition to increasing Executive Functions, aerobic exercise increases levels of cortisol and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
These elements are associated with cognitive performance including Selective Visual Attention (SVA), reported Texas Tech’s Lee T Ferris and Chwan-Li Shen with James S Williams of Texas State University, as well as University of Dublin’s Eadaoin W. Griffin, Sinead Mulally, Carole Foley, Stuart A. Warmington, Shane M. O’Mara, and Aine M. Kelly.

Éadaoin W Griffin

Éadaoin W Griffin

Likewise, stress increases levels of cortisol, and lower-income people tend to experience more chronic stress, leading to higher levels of cortisol, according to Northwestern’s Edith Chen and Gregory E. Miller with Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie, and separately by Cornell University’s Gary Evans and Michelle Schamberg.

Edith Chen

Edith Chen

Tine and Butler investigated these diverse findings by asking volunteers to:

Gary Evans

Gary Evans

Items include:

  • My parent was fired from his/her job
  • I was a victim of a crime
  • A close friend or family member had health problems
  • My parents divorced or separated
  • I had problems being liked by classmates

Participants also completed three reading comprehension tasks from Sharon Weiner Green and Ira K. Wolf’s GRE Preparation items.

Douglas Williamson

Douglas Williamson

After 45 minutes, participants monitored heart rate to ensure that it was within 10 beats per minute of pre-test measures of resting heart rate.
Brief aerobic exercise sessions eliminated the gap between “Executive Function” performance scores for talented volunteers from lower-income and high-income backgrounds.

Lower-income participants who exercised aerobically had reading comprehension scores comparable to their higher-income counterparts, around 90%,
Likewise, people who exercised significantly improved Selective Visual Attention (SVA) scores, but the video-viewers’ scores did not change, suggesting that exercise was the “active ingredient” in these performance improvements.

In addition, volunteers who exercised and reported higher chronic stress level achieved higher SVA scores and greater SVA score improvement than those who reported less chronic stress.
Cognitive performance improvements were maintained 45 minutes after exercise.

These findings suggest aerobic exercise as an effective, low-cost intervention to reduce achievement differences between people from lower-income and more affluent backgrounds, and this could contribute to increasing the number of diverse applicants in selective higher education settings and skilled employment – as well as increasing endurance, cardiac health, and reducing stress.

-*How have you seen workplaces encourage participation in aerobic exercise for the next generation of potential employees as well as current employees?

-*Do organizations receive more benefit from reducing health care costs and health-related absences or from increasing attention, innovation, and productivity?

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Improving Visual Information Processing for Better Performance – Boston Subway Map and More

Transit maps are one example of graphic displays that require the viewer to rapidly process visual information to make quick decisions in often crowded and noisy conditions.

MBTA Map 2013

MBTA Map 2013

Cognitive scientists have studied this type of challenging task load in human performance, but seem not to have been consulted when Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) sponsored a contest to redesign the system map in Spring 2013.

Michael Kvrivishvili

Michael Kvrivishvili

Michael Kvrivishvili, a graphic designer at Moscow’s Art Lebedev Studio, submitted the winning design, which was judged by aesthics and presumed usability.

MIT’s Ruth Rosenholtz, Lavanya Sharan, and Shaiyan Keshvari empirically scrutinized Kvrivishivili’s design using computational modeling to analyze the design’s potential visual clutter and its impact on peripheral vision.

Ruth Rosenholtz

Ruth Rosenholtz

Team Rosenholtz’s model generated “mongrels,” or  alternate representations of Kvrivishvili’s redesigned subway map, that abbreviate and abstract visual elements like color, text, space, line orientation before processing in the visual cortex.

Lavanya Sharan

Lavanya Sharan

Mongrels can account for peripheral vision’s generalized synthesis of information outside direct line-of-sight, which provides an overall impression while sacrificing details to speed information processing.

Shaiyan Keshvari

Shaiyan Keshvari

Their analysis recognized the many positive elements of Kvrivishvili’s design and noted opportunities for design optimization.

Amal Dorai

Amal Dorai

Rosenholtz’s earlier collaboration with MIT colleague Amal Dorai and Rosalind Freeman of Skidmore College evaluated the effectiveness of Dorai’s DesignEye tool to assist designers with this type of human factors optimization.

MBTA 2013 by Behr-Harnot

MBTA 2013 by Behr-Harnot

DesignEye tool enables A/B comparisons between designs and judgments about the quality of a design through simple design visualization.

Design optimization seeks to remedy effects of visual clutter, or excessive and disorganized items that can cause:

  • Crowding
  • Masking
  • Reduced recognition due to occlusion
  • Decreased ability to segment scenes
  • Poorer visual search performance.

 Rosenholtz’s group investigated reliable measures of visual clutter to help designers optimize displays for more effective information processing.

Jeremy Wolfe

Jeremy Wolfe

Among them are Jeremy Wolfe of Harvard’s Guided Search metrics, which measure reaction time (RT), errors, and distinguishing a single item in a crowded visual field provided an alternative to an earlier measure, “set size.”

Yuanzhen Li

Yuanzhen Li

Rosenholtz’s MIT colleagues Yuanzhen Li, Jonathan Mansfield, and Zhenlan Jin evaluated a revised version of her earlier Feature Congestion metric that focused on color and luminance contrast to consider the a new item’s distinctiveness in a crowded display to draw attention.

Michael Mack

Michael Mack

They also assessed Subband Entropy, a measure of visual information in the display, and Edge Density, used by University of Texas’s  Michael Mack and Aude Oliva of MIT to evaluate subjective visual complexity.

Aude Oliva

Aude Oliva

Cognitive science research focused on visual and auditory processing can be applied to optimize human performance through improved usability in many technology and graphic user interfaces.

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson of EMC Computer Systems and a veteran of several Silicon Valley high tech companies, builds on these empirical findings and addresses the challenge of reducing visual clutter with a the ancient practice of feng shui in the workplace.

-*How do you reduce visual clutter in your work environment?

MBTA-Emily Marsh-*What cues do you seek when navigating complex systems like subway systems?

MBTA-Kate Reed

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How the Brain Perceives Time So You Can Manage Time Demands, not Time

Many daily actions like perceiving through the senses, speaking, and walking require accurate timing, often to milliseconds.

These underlying brain mechanisms are crucial to determining causality, decoding temporal patterns, and managing “time demands,” a commitment to complete a task in the future.

Francis Wade

Francis Wade

Francis Wade suggests conducting a systemic diagnostic assessment of current time demand management practices to identify effective approaches, and those that can benefit from fine-tuning.
This leads to a plan that requires external support from people and technology.

But these processes depend on the brain’s accurate time perception.
-*How does the brain perceive time?

David Eagleman

David Eagleman

Baylor College of Medicine’s David M. Eagleman summarized extensive research that answers this question, with collaboration from Peter U. Tse of Dartmouth, UCLA’s Dean Buonomano, Peter Janssen of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University of Oxford’s Anna Christina Nobre, and Alex O. Holcombe of Cardiff University.

Peter Tse

Peter Tse

One recent change to the prevailing view that the basal ganglia and cerebellar systems are the brain’s main timekeepers comes from University of New Mexico’s Deborah L. Harrington and Kathleen Y. Haaland.

Kathleen Haaland

Kathleen Haaland

They built on this finding in work with Robert T. Knight of University of California, Davis, investigating the cerebral cortex’s role in perceptual timekeeping by studying task performance of volunteers with focal left (LHD) or right hemisphere (RHD) lesions compared with uninjured participants.

Robert T. Knight

Robert T. Knight

The groups performed a time duration perception task and a frequency perception task, which controlled for non-time processes in both tasks.
Only people with right hemisphere cerebral cortex lesions showed time perception deficits, suggesting that this area also contributes to perceptual timekeeping

People with this damage who accurately perceived time were also able to switch nonspatial attention, implying that time perception and attention switching are linked.
This group had no damage in the premotor and prefrontal cortex, in contrast to those who performed poorly on the time perception.
These results indicate that premotor and prefrontal cortex areas also contribute to accurate time perception.

Richard Ivry

Richard Ivry

Neural systems underlying timing processes may point to remedies for brain injuries that involve motor timing irregularities such as Parkinson’s disease, according to UC Berkeley’s Richard Ivry and Rebecca Spencer of UMass.  

Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca Spencer

Medical University of South Carolina’s Catalin V. Buhusi and
 Warren H. Meck of Duke University suggest that subjective time perception or psychological time is represented by multiple “internal clocks” that judge duration relative to the relevant time context.

Catalin V. Buhusi

Catalin V. Buhusi

Richard Ivry reported that the cerebellum can be considered as operating multiple “internal clocks,” suggesting a physiological basis for Buhusi and Meck’s multi-clock construct.

-*How do you manage time demands for future performance?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Mindful Attention – Part 2 of 5

Workplace stress reduces employees’ ability to concentrate and pay attention to work, but mindfulness training can enhance these skills while reducing stress.

Matthew Killingsworth

Matthew Killingsworth

Inattentiveness and distraction are both frequent and unpleasant, according to Harvard’s Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert.
They surveyed more than 2,000 adults, who reported that 47 percent of the time, their focus was not on their current activities.
In addition, these volunteers reported being less happy when distracted.

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Another way to measure distraction and attentiveness is The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale, developed by La Salle University’s Lee Ann Cardaciotto and James Herbert, Evan Forman, Ethan Moitra, and Victoria Farrow of Drexel University.
This tool provides a baseline measure of potential need for stress management and mindfulness training, and can demonstrate impact of training.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Current approaches to stress management training are typically based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which trains participants to focus on breathing, which slows respiration and heart rate, and triggers the “relaxation response.”

Wendy Hasenkamp

Wendy Hasenkamp

Using these frameworks, Emory’s Wendy Hasenkamp, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Erica Duncan, and Lawrence Barsalou investigated the neurological activity during distraction and mind-wandering experiences using fMRI scans of 14 meditators.

Participants focused on breathing and pressed a button when they realized their minds were wandering, then returned focus to the breathing.
Scans pinpointed active brain regions before, during, or after the button press.

Erica Duncan

Erica Duncan

Hasenkamp and team proposed four intervals in a cognitive cycle, based on button-pressing patterns:

  • Mind wandering (default mode activity), controlled by the medial prefrontal cortex, leading to  self-focused thoughts
  • Awareness of mind wandering (attentional subnetworks)
  • Shifting of attention (executive subnetworks)
  • Sustained attention (executive subnetworks).
Lawrence Barsalou

Lawrence Barsalou

These experienced meditators disengaged attention and deactivated medial prefrontal cortex more quickly after identifying mind-wandering, suggesting that their mindfulness practice helped them voluntarily shift from perseverative, ruminating thoughts.
They demonstrated increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, enabling less default mode activity while meditating.

Britta Hölzel

Britta Hölzel

Besides reducing stress, mindfulness meditation trains attention, improves working memory, fluid intelligence, introspection, and standardized test scores, according to Britta Hölzel team at Harvard and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen.
In addition, mindfulness meditation has shown beneficial results in comprehensive treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.

Fadel Zeidan

Fadel Zeidan

Hölzel’s group conducted anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images for 16 volunteers with no previous mindfulness meditation experience before and after they participated in the 8-week training program.
Gray matter concentration increased in the meditators’ left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum, areas responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Further support for mindfulness meditation’s value in reducing perceived stress and anxiety comes from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Fadel Zeidan.
His study identified brain areas activated and deactivated during meditation and participants reported that anxiety decreased by 39 percent during practice.

Norman Farb

Norman Farb

Mindfulness meditation training modifies the way people experience themselves over time and in the present moment, according to University of Toronto’s Norman Farb and six collaborators.
The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine monitoring of two self-reference processes:  Focus on enduring traits (’narrative’ focus) or momentary experience (’experiential’ focus).

They compared participants with no previous meditation experience, and volunteers who completed an 8-week mindfulness meditation training to increase attention on the present.

Herbert Benson

Herbert Benson

Brain scans of inexperienced and experienced meditators differed significantly in tasks that required these two forms of self-awareness: the self across time and in the present moment.
These two experiences are usually integrated but can be dissociated through mindfulness attention training.
Results suggest that mindfulness training enables people to focus on the present moment without the distraction of intrusive, ruminative thoughts which can increase stress.

Manoj Bhasin

Manoj Bhasin

Mindfulness-based stress management has significant long term effects by modifying gene expression.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson, who led research on “the relaxation response” almost four decades ago, along with colleagues including Harvard’s Manoj Bhasin and Abbott Northwestern Hospital Jeffery Dusek and four others, assert that meditation evokes “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”

Jeffrey Dusek

Jeffrey Dusek

Genes associated with inflammation and stress are less active and those involved in energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance are activated.

Bhasin, Dusek and team measured peripheral blood transcriptome in experienced and inexperienced meditators before and after they listened to a relaxation response-inducing tape or a health education message.

Both short-term and long-term practitioners showed significant temporal gene expression changes with a greater effect among the experienced meditators.

This and other research evidence supports the effectiveness of mindfulness attention training as a stress management practice.
Mindful attention training enables people to voluntarily control body processes like respiration and heart rate, which reduces perceived stress.
The practice can induce calm thoughts that reciprocally reduce the physical expressions of stress.

Jonathan Smallwood

Jonathan Smallwood

Like other stress management techniques, this practice requires willingness and commitment to take full advantage of benefits demonstrated in lab studies.

If efforts to cultivate mindfulness falter, mind-wandering or “self-generated thoughts” can be channeled away from self-referential worries to enable creativity problem-solving and planning.

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Max Planck Institute’s Jonathan Smallwood and Jessica Andrews-Hanna of University of Colorado argue that “a wandering mind helps project past and future selves.”

Thomas Suddendorf

Thomas Suddendorf

Similarly, University of Queensland’s Thomas Suddendorf and Michael Corballis of University of Auckland posit that this hindsight and foresight enables experience and memory integration into a sense of self through this “mental time travel.” 

Michael Corballis

Michael Corballis

University of California, Santa Barbara’s Benjamin Baird collaborated with Jonathan Smallwood and four colleagues to evaluate the impact of mind-wandering on a creativity task during a demanding task, rest, or an undemanding task.

Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird

They found that engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial performance improvements, suggesting the value of mind-wandering to develop creative solutions.

Although mindfulness training has been reliably associated with effective stress management, even moments of mind-wandering can be channeled to productive ends in creative problem-solving.

-*How applicable are mindfulness attention training practice for workplace stress?

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Look for related posts on:

  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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Does Workplace Co-Location Increase Collaboration and Innovation?

John Chambers

John Chambers

In 2009, Cisco CEO John Chambers asserted that “the face-to-face meeting is a dinosaur,” and he demonstrated his point in a Telepresence-enabled company meeting from Bangalore, India with his fellow executive, Marthin de Beer, in San Jose, California.

Marthin de Beer

Marthin de Beer

Marisa Mayer of Yahoo seems not to agree with Chambers’ premise.

Her highly-publicized decision to require remote workers to work on-site every day in Yahoo offices received mixed reviews from advocates of flexible work practices such as ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Mayer argued that co-location will enable Yahoos to more effectively collaborate and innovate.

-*What is the evidence for – or against – her assertion?

Eduardo Salas

Eduardo Salas

A decade ago, in 2003, a meta-analysis of face-to-face meetings’ impact on group cohesiveness, task commitment, authority, communication noted the one benefit of virtual meetings: “status-equalizing impact of computer-supported cooperative work … enables greater participation by women, minorities and other traditionally lower status groups.

Florida Maxima Corporation’s James Driskell collaborated with Paul Radtke, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and University of Central Florida’s Eduardo Salas summarized often-conflicting findings on the impact of virtual teams  and concluded that interaction in virtual environments requires consideration of the type of task that the team is performing.
Agile software development is an example of a process that originally assumed – and required –  team member co-location.

Sandeep Joshi

Sandeep Joshi

Microsoft trainer Sandeep Joshi offered an alternate model to co-location for Agile development, and argued that some tasks in the Agile development process are suitable for remote work by distributed teams.
Because more than half of respondents to VersionOne’s 2012 State of Agile survey said they use Agile with co-located and distributed teams, or plan to do so in the future, Joshi advocates maintaining collaborative, co-located design processes to capitalize on group interaction, then “de-Agilizing” the process to enable individual coding before re-convening to evaluate the work in “rapid turns.”

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Distance is not only physical, according to SUNY Stony Brook’s Karen Sobel-Lojeski. 
She conceptualizes three types of virtual distance:

  • Affinity (culture and background differences like ethnicity, educational background, past familiarity, shared vision, and commitment that affect team productivity and cohesiveness
  • Operational (type and frequency of communication)
  • Physical (geographic separation)
Richard Reilly

Richard Reilly

She collaborated with Richard Reilly of Stevens Institute of Technology on two books that explored perceived distance among co-workers, which can be reduced or increased by communication technology.

They argue that virtual distance changes the ways people learn, perform, and develop relationships with others in the workplace.

Like Joshi, they advocate analyzing the nature of the tasks and existing interpersonal relationships among team members before mandating co-location, virtual, or blended work arrangements.

Sobel-Lojeski and Reilly conclude that important workplace competencies are traversing boundaries, glocalization, and authenticity, leading to what they call “techno-dexterity” required for effective leadership in a wired world.

Among the drawbacks of co-location are increased work interruptions, which can reduce productivity and cognitive performance.

Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University’s Alessandro Acquisti and  Eyal Pe’er  demonstrated decreased cognitive task performance after electronic interruptions and task-shifts similar to responding to a mobile phone call, text message or email.

More than 135 volunteers read a short document and answered questions about the content.
One third of the participants completed this portion of the experiment and served as the control group.

Eyal Pe'er

Eyal Pe’er

The remaining individuals were told they “might be contacted for further instructions” via instant message.

This alerted group completed a similar reading comprehension test, and half of this group actually received instant messages, whereas the other half didn’t receive the anticipated notices.

Both interrupted groups provided 20% less accurate responses than the control group, suggesting a significant cost to interruptions and task shifting.

However, when the interrupted group performed the similar task a second time, this group reduced the under-performance by 6%.
Those who were warned of an interruption that never came improved by 43 percent, and even outperformed the control test takers who were left alone.

Acquisti and Pe’er suggested that people may develop compensatory strategies to manage the performance impact of interruptions.

Gloria Mark

Gloria Mark

Likewise, University of California, Irvine’s Gloria Mark with Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Klocke of Germany’s Humboldt University reported that a typical office worker is interrupted about every 3-11 minutes and requires an average of 23-25 minutes to return to the original task.

Daniela Gudith

Daniela Gudith

Volunteers worked faster when they anticipate interruptions, particularly those who measured high on openness to experience and high on need for personal structure.
However, participants reported increased stress, higher workload, greater frustration, more time pressure and effort when they increased work speed.

Ulrich Klocke

Ulrich Klocke

These findings provide equivocal support for Mayer’s anticipated benefits from workplace co-location.
Her team may experience increased stress due to interruptions, task-shifting, and noise, in addition to any personal concerns about lengthy commutes and work-life balance.

This inference was supported in research by Harvard’s Leslie Perlow, who studied engineers working in an open-space environment.
These highly-skilled knowledge workers reported frequent interruptions and reduced productivity.

Leslie Perlow

Leslie Perlow

Perlow offered these engineers a recommendation:  Pre-scheduled interruption-free “quiet time”.
She found that this intervention led to increased productivity.

Catherine Kerr

Catherine Kerr

Similarly, Catherine Kerr of Brown University suggests that the impact of frequent task-shifts in open work environments can be mitigated by mindfulness meditation as brain training to enable increased attentional focus by attending to breathing.

Workplace inclusion and diversity issues add to questions of whether co-location actually increases innovation, collaboration, and productivity.
Pew Research Center reported that working mothers were more concerned with having a flexible schedule whereas working fathers placed more importance on having a high-paying job.

When employees actually use increasingly-available flexible work options, including job-sharing, telecommuting, and compressed work weeks, they may experience adverse career impacts.

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Joan Williams, founding director of the Center for Work-Life Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law with  University of Iowas’ Jennifer Glass, Shelley Correll of Stanford and University of Toronto’s Jennifer Berdahl reported that men who take leave from work after the birth of a child were more likely to be penalized and less likely to get promoted or receive raises.

Shelley Correll

Shelley Correll

Jennifer Berdahl

Jennifer Berdahl

In addition, they found that women using flexible work arrangements receive differing feedback from others depending on their socioeconomic statusAffluent women were encouraged to stay at home, whereas less affluent women were more likely to be counseled not to have children.

Despite John Chamber’s death-of-face-to-face meetings assessment and recent findings by Kenneth Matos and Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute, Cisco Systems executives seem aligned with Mayer’s advocacy for in-person collaboration.

Kenneth Matos

Kenneth Matos

During a recent preview of renovated office buildings featuring “Collaborative Work Spaces,” Cisco business leaders asserted that the layout is intended to increase collaboration and attract recent graduates and other “younger talent” by “projecting a hip, innovative image in the work environment.”
They noted that this arrangement is actually more costly than offices and cubicles despite accommodating more workers in the same amount of space.

Ellen Galinsky

Ellen Galinsky

Past research suggest costs to adopting computer-mediated work processes, yet these technologies have improved, become more prevalent, and workers have become more skilled in their use.
Further, virtual collaboration enables workplace participation by people who might require flexible schedules, and reduces the environmental impact, cost, and perceived stress of commuting.

-*How is your productivity affected by physical proximity to your co-workers?
-*How do you manage distractions in open office environments?

——–

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Arc of Attentional Focus: Has Someone Picked Your Pocket While You Experienced “Inattentional Blindness”?

Apollo Robbins

Apollo Robbins

Apollo Robbins, son of a Baptist pastor whose half-brothers were street pick-pockets and shoplifters, demonstrates glitches in human perception and cognition in his interactive Las Vegas show as “The Gentleman Thief.”

He tells his “targets” that he is about to steal from them, then uses visual illusions, proximity manipulation, diversion techniques, and attention control to achieve his goal, to observers’ astonishment.
Robbins returns belongings, which kept him out of trouble when he lifted possessions of former US President Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service agents.

In addition to the entertaining curiosity of Robbins’ feats, his skill is relevant to improving perceptual skills in normal and cognitively-impaired people, and reducing traffic and industrial accidents as well as safety and security violations.

He overcame congenital motor-skill deficits by practicing his craft and notes that the key to his feats is monitor the focus of a target’s attention: “If a person is focused elsewhere, a thief can put his whole hand in [a pocket] and steal.”

Kim Silverman

Kim Silverman

Like Kim Silverman, Research Scientist at Apple, Robbins creates “false assumptions… that look like reality and take advantage of those…I’ll put my hand in their pocket, and when it comes out, they’re expecting that I would have stolen something. Then I create a ruse, by moving my hand in a half-circle. Their eyes will instinctively chase the movement…

The U.S. Department of Defense accesses Robbins’ skills at its Special Operations Command research-and-training facility at Yale University, where he an adjunct professor — despite his non-collegiate education.

Barton Whaley

Barton Whaley

Defense application of Robbins’ perceptual manipulation skills were foreshadowed by Barton Whaley of the Naval Postgraduate School and Susan Stratton Aykroyd in their Textbook of Political-Military Counterdeception.

Their historical survey of deception and counter-deception practices asserted that conjurors’ theories and principles were substantially more advanced than those used by U.S. political or military intelligence analysts in the 1970s.

Stephen Macknik

Stephen Macknik

Neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde of Barrow Neurological Institute collaborated with Robbins on Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deception.

Susana Martinez-Conde

Susana Martinez-Conde

These and other cognitive scientists posit that studying the common cognitive errors that lead to perceptual illusions of “magic” can suggest diagnostic and treatment methods for cognitive deficits, including attention deficits resulting from brain trauma, autism, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), and Alzheimer’s disease. Sleights of  Mind

Insights from magic performance may help patients “trick” themselves into focusing on the most important aspects of their environment, while suppressing distractions that cause confusion, disorientation, and “inattentional blindness” — focusing so intently on a single task that one fails to notice things in plain sight.

Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman

Psychologist and magician Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire demonstrated this type of perceptual failure when viewers typically fail to notice environmental changes when focusing on a card trick. 
Similarly, Transport of London’s Public Service Announcement reminds viewers that it’s easy to miss things you’re not expecting in “Did you see the Moonwalking Bear?

Wiseman’s popular book on the same theme argues that people can be in guard for perceptual blindness and “recognise hidden opportunities in your life,” whereas his academic work offers Magic in Theory: an introduction to the theoretical and psychological elements of conjuring.

Daniel Simons

Daniel Simons

Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin

Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois and Daniel Levin of Vanderbilt University demonstrated “seeing without seeing” in similar experiments to the now-classic video of people passing a basketball as woman in a gorilla suit walked through the action.

Simons collaborated with Christopher Chabris at Harvard University and reported that half the observers said they did not see the gorilla when they were counting the number of ball passes by one team.

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

However, the same people easily recognized the gorilla when they were not focusing on a distraction task.

The Invisible Gorilla

The Invisible Gorilla

This finding reinforces research reports of most people’s inability to effectively multitask based on limited capacity – about four items — to hold a visual scene in short-term memory (VSTM), according to Edward Vogel and Maro Machizawa of the University of Oregon and René Marois and J. Jay Todd of Vanderbilt University.

Edward Vogel

Edward Vogel

Macknik and Martinez-Conde reported empirical results supporting Robbins’s observation that the eye will follow an object moving in an arc without looking back to its point of origin.
In contrast, when an object moves in a straight line, the eye tends to return to the point of origin. 

Rene Marois-J Jay Todd

Rene Marois-J Jay Todd

Robbins is a co-author of the scholarly article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, which compared volunteers’ eye movement patterns while watching a video of him performing a coin trick in which he moved his hand away in an arc or in a straight line.

The research team concluded that this perceptual principle is “explained by the differential engagement of the smooth pursuit and the saccadic oculomotor systems.”
They found that curved motions may be more salient, novel, and informative than predictable linear edges, so attract greater attention.

Gustav Kuhn

Gustav Kuhn

Ronald Rensink

Ronald Rensink

Gustav Kuhn of University of London collaborated with magician Alym Amlani and Ronald Rensink of University of British Columbia to classify cognitive, perceptual, and physical contributors Towards a Science of Magic:

  • Physical misdirection. Most people, though not those with cognitive impairments like autism, typically follow a magician’s gaze or gesture in “joint attention”
  • Psychological misdirection can be achieved with a casual motion  that may be critical to the trick, or prolonging suspense to distract from the trick’s mechanics
  • Optical illusions can distort the true size of an object
  • Cognitive illusions can prolong an image after the object has been removed
  • Physical force and mental force can influence “freely chosen” cards or other objects in magic tricks

Perceptual and cognitive illusions can cause people not to see things that are clearly present, which can lead to overlooking opportunities, interpersonal cues, and more seriously, to experiencing traffic accidents and victimization by criminals.

Mindful awareness is one countermeasure to help people attend to various aspects of the present moment, to more attentively experience opportunities and relationships while mitigating potential problems.

-*How to you maintain focus to prevent “inattentional blindness”?

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