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Video: What Would Freud Say? Part 3 - Reviews, Self-development
Publishing excerpts from Sarah Tomley's book
- Sarah Tomley
- What would Freud say? How Great Therapists Would Solve Your Problems
- Publisher: Alpina Publisher, Moscow, 2018
What would Carl Jung say about your midlife crisis and the purchase of a red Ferrari? How would Berres Skinner explain why you keep your phone sticking? Would you like to turn to Erich Fromm for help in finding true love?
I check my phone every few minutes. Why can't I concentrate?
In the 21st century, we are overwhelmed with information, and therefore the ability to selectively focus on certain things as opposed to others is critical. If you and I were intelligent beings, our attention would be focused on the streams of information that are most useful for the actual task, but for some reason - no matter what the task is - we stare at our smartphones. Why are they so attractive?
- What would Freud say? Part 1
- What would Freud say? Part 2
Everyone knows what attention is, but no one understands what it is. Without going into details, attention allows us to focus on some stimulus (attractive person in the bar) to the detriment of others (people in the bar, the bar itself, or the drink in hand). This process involves selectivity, but psychologists are still trying to figure it out. Do we think about what the object means to us and then pay attention to it? Or does something catch our attention due to the strength of the signal (for example, a loud sound) and then undergoes cognitive processing and conceptualization?
Back in the 1950s, psychologists Donald Broadbent and Colin Cherry argued about what comes first. Broadbent argued that physical characteristics are the first to go through the filtering system of our psyche, and Cherry insisted that meaning is more important. He pointed out that we always hear, even among the cacophony of voices, when we are addressed by our first name, and called it (rather gracefully) the "cocktail party effect."
Ann Trisman performed a maneuver that Freud would have admired: she suggested that all incoming information from the senses was passed through the brain processing system - at the unconscious level. From this "automatic flow", certain objects (for example, your name) can catch your attention.
Recent studies, which feature few cocktails but many brain imaging, show that attention is a dynamic adversarial system. During the processing of information, our attention - at any given moment - intensifies some flow of information (the "winner") and drowns out the rest ("losers"). The process involves many parts of the brain and depends on two factors: your goal (finding a girlfriend in a red dress - and all other colors are ignored) and the strength of the incoming stimuli (breaking glass that distracts attention from everything else).
Our goals rely on top-down cognitive processing, so if you're thirsty, you'll notice a bottle of water on my desk as you walk towards me. Such attention is endogenous, that is, it arises within you. If you stumble over a trash can in the hallway and hurt your leg, your attention will be occupied by bottom-up sensory processing from the environment. This is an external, or exogenous, process.
The system has some drawbacks: the rigid selectivity of the process means that we are missing something, especially if we find ourselves in a situation where there is too much information - in time or space (when it is supplied too quickly). We can also fall prey to "change blindness", that is, we do not notice the changes that occur outside of our main interest. For example, if you watch Julia Roberts and Richard Gere have breakfast in Pretty Woman, you might not notice how her croissant mysteriously turns into pancakes. We miss details in geographic space as well as in time. We all experienced this and we know that such "punctures" are possible.
The problem with smartphones is that in a handy gadget, we carry attention-stealing programs with us that, for added fun, trigger the production of addictive substances in our brains. On an exogenous level, smartphones constantly generate noise that whispers, "You've got a message" or "Video from yesterday's party!" These external stimuli are extremely attractive.
Plus, you may have strong endogenous targets: “Did she write to me? Has that job offer come in yet? Did anyone like my photo? Did someone reply to me on Snapchat? " And given our tendency to miss details while attention wanders elsewhere, "Has something happened that I missed?"
Let's say you receive a message or photo. This activates the centers of novelty in the brain, and you experience a "reward" in the form of endogenous opioids that instantly create a sense of bliss. This makes it much more difficult to pay attention to an important business meeting that you are actually attending. If you reply to a message / photo / video with funny losers, then you get a new dose of dopamine also for this cute "achievement". And you might get more while you think how great it is to be connected with others (jackpot!).
Smartphones deliver random rewards, not guaranteed ones
The father of behavioral science, BF Skinner, has shown that there is nothing more seductive than this "alternating reinforcement regime." Skinner put the animals in a cage with a lever that you could press. At first, when the animals did this, food appeared, and when they were full, they stopped pressing the levers. Then food did not appear for a long time, and the animals also abandoned the case. But when food was delivered by accident when a lever was pressed, the animals continued to push hard on it. (Have a message? Yes! Have a message? No. Have a message? Have a message?)
Curiously, smartphones can even rely on the power of "hidden attention" described in 1894 by Hermann von Helmholtz. He showed that when the gaze is fixed on one point (for example, on a notebook lying in front of you), visual attention can be directed towards "hidden" - without moving the gaze. By keeping the phone in the peripheral vision zone, we can keep an eye on this "box of surprises" all the time.
Is there a problem?
Unfortunately there is. Even a few. First, this is how we fool ourselves as if we are doing several things at once. We humans have a limited amount of attention, and if we split it into two or more tasks, it is distributed either very superficially (so that we do not notice much in the tasks), or unevenly.
Professor Glen Wilson has found that multitasking, such as trying to concentrate when you know that a letter is waiting to be read, leads to greater cognitive loss than smoking marijuana. In addition, dopamine acts on the nucleus accumbens. Scientists conducted experiments on rats, giving them the opportunity to press a lever, causing an electrical signal to enter that part of the brain directly, mimicking the effects of dopamine. The rats liked it so much that they constantly pressed the lever, forgetting about food, sleep and sex. They just pressed and pressed on him until they died of exhaustion.
In 2016, the government of New South Wales in Australia announced trials of new traffic lights that attract the attention of pedestrians who are absentmindedly crossing the street at the wrong time. They do not hear the beeps of cars, the roar of engines, they do not notice the huge signs and the edges of the curbs under their feet. The entire flow of transport cannot compete with the craving for the telephone, and these people have lost touch with reality.