The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited; this is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved

I feel most fortunate that I came across a Twitter link dealing with an Aug. 9, 2014 New York Times article that underlines the fact that the processing capacity of conscious mind is limited, as a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, the article recommends that a person limit engagement with social media and emails to a specified time during the day. I now limit my activity in these areas to the morning and evening. During the rest of the day, my email and social media platforms are switched off.

I had read previously about the fact that multitasking reduces a person’s capacity to get things dome, but had not followed up on that information. The New York Times article shared information that is similar to what we know about multitasking – and also included a specific suggestion. That suggestion is what has led to a change in my approach to social media and email. As a result, I’ve received a tangible benefit from the New York Times article. I’m getting a lot more work done, and my mind is clearer,

Measurement of social value of research

A recent Lancet editorial – which I also learned about through Twitter – is of interest with regard to the social benefit of evidence derived from research. The New York Times article about the brain’s attentional system is based on research; the information  in the article has been of tangible benefit for me.

The Lancet editorial notes that “how to measure social value in a meaningful, reproducible way across participants and cultures, with a valid collection of metrics that could be used to encourage, guide, and gauge improvements to society, is a challenge.” It adds that:

“If a robust measure could be developed, however, it would be useful not only to journals, but also to authors and institutions as an indicator of how well they contribute to society, and for funders as an outcome-based metric of efficient investment.”

Measurement of public education outcomes

The idea of measuring the social value of research is a great concept. The article brings to mind a project that I helped out with over a period of many years, which involved the development of a survey instrument that could be used to measure attitudes about stuttering, in countries around the world.

Such an instrument, which has been developed by Kenneth St. Louis and his colleagues, is highly valuable in quantifying the results of public education efforts aimed at provision of accurate information about stuttering. Such public education efforts were a particular area of interest for me, in the years when I was active in volunteer work on behalf of people who stutter.

Effects of multitasking

An Oct. 2, 2014 Inc. article is entitled: “Multitasking Physically Shrinks Your Brain: Study.” The subhead reads: “New research finds that looking at multiple screens at once can actually alter a key brain structure.”


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