gorillaAttnSizedDeficit is a word that most of us associate with our money budgets - there never seems to be enough money. For an ADDer we never seem to have enough attention to pay to everything around us either.

Yet non-ADHD people appear to be able to concentrate on what they need to. But this is not always true. Lets explore this a bit more and you will understand so much more about the condition called Attention Defict Disorder, or ADHD, or ADD.

Most people, usually not ADDers, sit down at the end of the month, see how much money they have, and allocate portions of their money they need to pay out in order to keep alive. This budget process uses a priority system to decide who must get money first.

Usually this means the bond or the rent first, then all the accounts that you pay monthly, school fees, food, entertainment, etc. Those of you with eagle eyes will have noticed that I haven't put savings‚ in that list. There's a good reason for that; you can't save attention like you can money.

This means we have a finite amount attention to pay out, with no savings or reserve fund for a rainy day to call on when all our attention has been allocated. We only have as much attention as we can use at any one time.

This makes attention a very valuable resource indeed, in fact the most precious asset of all. When you can't pay attention you are dead!‚

Sometimes we allocate all our attention to one thing, we concentrate only on one thing. We are able to ignore other stimuli around us. Sometimes we can do this so well it's called hyper-focus, something most ADDers can do quite well, especially when they are interested in something.

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons in their book The Invisible Gorilla illustrate this in the most astounding way. They made a short video clip of two teams passing basket balls. One team is dressed in black, the other in white.

 

You are asked to count the number of passes the white team makes and ignore the passes made by those in black. This is not an easy task to do. It is an absorbing task require a lot of attention.

Halfway through the video, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walks across the scene, stops and thumps her chest, and then moves out of shot. She is on screen for a total of 9 seconds, which a significant amount of time.

The amazing thing is that about half of the many thousands who have watched the video don't see the gorilla at all! They are concentrating so intensely on counting the passes of the white team, that they are blind to a woman in a gorilla suit thumping her chest for nearly 9 seconds! Right in front of their eyes!

Those who didn't see it are often amazed that they didn't see it. Not only did their hyper-focus of attention make them blind to the gorilla, they were oblivious of their blindness.

A significant point about this experiment is that if you are not given the task of counting the passes, you don't miss the gorilla.

There are some really good lessons to be learnt from all of this:

  • To maximise our attention there should be a purpose, a reason, why we pay attention to something
  • We can minimise distractions, even major ones, to the point they become invisible
  • It's better to pay attention to one thing at a time, rather than too many.
  • Finally, all the above begs the question, what are we missing every day?
  • How many gorillas don't we see, even if they are right in front of us?

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