Attention Span Article Sample Essay.
Institution of Affiliation
Attention span indicates the length of time that the brain can handle a specific task without deviating to another. Mediated by special centers of the brain, the normal concentrating span of an adult is between 10 to 20 minutes. Problems with concentration have detrimental effects in the learning abilities of students. Contributing to these problems are personal and environmental factors. Multitasking, as brought about by the use of technological devices amongst learners has created great problems in attainment of proper attention skills. While some scholars argue that technology has brought good than harm in the learning environment, research indicates that it has created problems, with students spending most of their time on the screen, which highly distracts the learning process. Developmental deficits in attention span may occur due to psychiatric conditions such as autism and attention deficit hyperactive disorder among children. Persistence of good attention skills past the age of four is a positive predictor of excellent performance in language, mathematics and completion of college later in life.
Attention span is a measure of how long the brain of an individual is able to concentrate on a specific activity. It involves a conscious or a subconscious processes in which the brain chooses which activity to act on and which one to ignore. This significance of the brain in directing the body towards action as well determines behavior and affects the physiological functions of an individual. Certain parts of the brain including the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex work in coordination to determine which action would be performed, in accordance with the working memory of the individual. In essence, a conscious brain may exhibit attention as either active or passive forms. Active attention depends on the individual’s determination, choice and interest on a specific activity, while passive attention is involuntary, but the changes in the surrounding may alter passive attention from time to time. This paper seeks to discuss the various influences of attention span in execution of tasks and attention problems.
Attention span affects the way individuals interact with each other and their environment. Problems affecting attention may lead to aberrations in physiological function and undesired behavioral characteristics. Attention deficits may affect the academic performance of students and the productivity of employees at the work place. They could also prove detrimental by causing accidents.
Genetics and environmental influences affect attention spans largely. It is important to take note of the role of inherited traits and congenital and developmental psychological problems in the causation of abnormal attention spans (Forster et al, 2013). There is a wide array of psychological complications, ranging from attention deficit hyperactive disorder seen in children, autism, personality disorders and other psychosocial problems. The environment likewise affects the concentrating spans of people, especially learners. With the increased use of technological gadgets in both classroom and out of class interactions, attention problems have continuously grown. Problems caused by the use of tablets, mobile phones and other technological gadgets not only come from the constant distractions form the sounds, notifications and vibrations they make but also from internal influences, which may involve thinking about them all the time. Exploration of attention problems therefore requires a multilane approach.
Justification of the Topic
An understanding of attention span, the problems that may affect it and the scientific evidence regarding attention is important. This could help in the early identification of the problems of attention and seek interventions early. In another view, issues related with attention could lead to learning and cognitive deficits. Hence, attention span could serve as a great indicator of school problems, which could even manifest as behavioral aberrations.
While many studies on attention and problems of concentration exist, very few of them point to the causal relationships of the environment, technology and medical conditions to attention deficits (Lamba et al, 2014). A dissection of the existing literature regarding these is therefore important to offer more insight and aid in clinical judgments by psychologists. The topic offers a great significance to teachers, especially those who handle young learners in identifying their learning needs and subsequently designing on appropriate teaching approaches based on such needs.
Attention Span in Learning Environments
Transient attention is one that occurs for about 8 seconds. This serves at a subliminal level and may help in the performance of automated activities. Loss of transient attention may lead to loss of fine of routine activities for an individual. Complementing transient attention is the selective attention, in which an individual focuses on the issue of interest to him or her. Selective attention is in carrying out activities that one may term as interesting, such as reading a novel, paying a video game or even having a chat via the phone. Selective attention is the one that facilitates learning, since the span is controllable and usually occurs for longer periods. Short recollection interludes may occur between selective attention, which lasts for about ten to twenty minutes according to Hartley and Davis. Changes in the surrounding may help in reinstating concentration spans as the loss that occurs between attentions intervals may act as refreshers.
Attention may be affected by external stimuli such as pain, noise, and others perceived through the sensory inputs. Physiological factors such as hunger, exhaustion, psychological stress and anxiety may also affect the attention span (Rabiner, Carrig & Dodge, 2013). Considering these, one may be able to concentrate only in the initial stages of a cumbersome activity, but with increasing time, exhaustion of the selective attention drive diminishes leading to loss of concentration (Lamba et al, 2014). For instance, students report that they are able to recall the contents of a lecture that they learn during the early stages of the session with more clarity than the information they gain towards the end of the lecture. As such, it is important to incorporate breaks in between lengthy classroom sessions in order to avoid exhaustion, which is a large contributor towards attention loss. Purposeful distractions are also important in making the learning experience enjoyable and non-cumbersome.
Attention is an important factor in the process of gaining knowledge. Therefore, main aim of an educator should be to provide a conducive environment that facilitates learning and limits distractions. As much as this may lie with the educator, the larger part of it lies with the students to ensure that they maximize on selective attention. Utilization of this ensures that the students grasp the content, and improves their classroom experience. Content delivery through interesting methods, laying of emphasis on the take home points and encouraging short periods of teaching could play an important role in ensuring that the learners stay attentive and retain the relevant information.
Inappropriate behavior in the classroom such as dropping stationery, conversing, and unnecessary movements may be indicators of lack of attention. These may serve as an alarm that the learning experience is beneficial and that keen attention is part of the session. Recognition of the individual needs of the learners is also important in ensuring active participation. This not only applies to practical courses such as psychology but also in theoretical learning. Students learn differently depending on motivation, individual expectations, cognition and concentrating abilities. Since these qualities vary from person to person, the factors that could distract one from paying full attention also differ amongst learners (Arnold, Hurt and Lofthouse, 2013).
Teachers, parents and learners as well agree to the postulation that use of technological devices reduces the concentration spans of students. This is more rampant amongst the media users, who constantly view their gadgets for notifications, chats and games. The contribution of this is more evident in the perpetual distraction that technological devices portend on the understanding the classroom discussions, when their user endeavors to use them in classroom sessions. Teenagers and young adults in colleges are more affected by this (McClelland et al, 2013).
Cognitive overload may result from increased receipt of information. Since the human brain has a finite capacity to perform tasks, increasing the workload of the brain through multitasking with technological devices poses a threat to attention spans. A study on students from institutions of higher learning indicated that the students could only concentrate for about 6 minutes on a regular activity at home, before checking out their phones. This obvious distraction resulted from multitasking. Research indicates that multitasking can be detrimental in causing low work out puts, reducing the cognitive capability and decreasing the efficiency in performance of tasks. Digital distractions offer the greatest risk in causing this since most learners presume that concurrent use of devices while carrying out other activities poses no threat to their attention (Rabiner, Carrig & Dodge, 2013).
Multitasking creates a divided attention consequently causing a cognitive overload. When one works on multiple tasks at the same time, they offer partial attention to each one of them. For instance, on activities such as reading, a divided attention leads to shallow skimming through the content without a keen analysis of the deep details of the text. This may consequently result in kissing of the vital details from a text, or a practical session. Likewise, multitasking may lead to development of continuous partial attention behavior, whose effects could be dire, including gross errors and accidents.
While most studies encourage controlled use of technological devices in the classroom setting, others encourage the use of such on the ground that devices improve the learning experience. The proponents of the use of gadgets argue that the use of mobile devices, tablets and computers in the classroom increase the accessibility of information for learners. According to some teachers, the alteration of the concentration span for the students cancels out with the capacity of the gadgets to foster research skills through the internet and increased information sharing (Rabiner, Carrig & Dodge, 2013).
Impact of Developmental Deficits on Attention
The period between preschool and early beginning of school have a huge role in psychosocial development and the gain of the concept of attention. Since the development of attention is offers a multidimensional interplay of mental and environmental factors, the ability to concentrate, learn and recall concepts occurs as from as early as 2 to 4 years during and language development (Arnold, Hurt and Lofthouse, 2013). Training children on the importance of listening and concentrating on tasks goes a long way, even into their futures. However, this training may be difficult for children with conditions such as autism and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.
Children and adults with autism may present varying degrees of attention problems. Autism is a developmental disorder, which occurs with characteristics of language deficits, lack of emotional reciprocity and mannerisms. The condition mainly manifests fully at the time when the child begins to attend school (Arnold, Hurt and Lofthouse, 2013). Accompanying the symptoms are abnormalities in social interaction and repetitive rituals that may hamper the child’s concentrating abilities. As such, the child exhibits poor school performance and may be as well unable to relate with the peers due to his or her aberrant interpretation of other people’s emotions.
Arnold, Hurt and Lofthouse (2013), explain that attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) presents in a similar manner to autism although the children affected by this condition do not lack the emotional reciprocity. Characterizing the disorder are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Children with this disorder exhibit the failure to maintain concentration to one activity as compared to their peers. The child may appear disorganized and clumsy. Important to note is that this disorder does not occur due to the defiance or inability to understand the surrounding. Hyperactivity occurs with the inability to keep still and perform tasks in a systematic manner (Lamba et al, 2014). The child may jump from one activity to the other, fidget or talk excessively, consequently affecting their ability to pay attention to detail.
McClelland et al (2013) point out that the sequel of inattention occurs past preschool for children who exhibit this symptomatology. In their study that evaluated for the effects of a short attention span persistence on the academic achievements later in life, Megan et al explain that the effects of the persistence of a short attention span were not evident at the age of 7 years. Retaining of the concentration span past the age of 4 years was a strong predictor of the probability to do well in academics and advance their education up to the college level. Persistence of competent attention skills past the age of 4 also indicated a strength in languages and mathematics later in life, at the academic levels of high school and tertiary education. Therefore, persistence of good skills in paying attention indicate a favorable outcome in later academic achievements at secondary education and other higher levels.
In conclusion, attention span in an interplay of the environmental and personal traits. While the environment acts to mold attention characteristics of an individual, genetic factors contribute hugely in determining the competency of an individual in gaining concentration skills. One of the major shortcomings in the instillation of attention skills is the influence of technology, which has served to increase distractions in the learning environments. Technological gadgets have caused problems, which include shallow reading, errors of multitasking and inadequate interaction with tutors. Important to note is that the developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD have dire consequences in attainment of attention skills. These cause learning disabilities, poor school performance and abnormal social interactions.
Arnold, L. E., Hurt, E., & Lofthouse, N. (2013). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: dietary and nutritional treatments. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 22(3), 381-402.
Forster, S., Elizalde, A. O. N., Castle, E., & Bishop, S. J. (2013). Unraveling the anxious mind: Anxiety, worry, and frontal engagement in sustained attention versus off-task processing. Cerebral Cortex, bht248.
Lamba, M. S., Rawat, M. A., Jacob, M. J., Arya, M. M., Rawat, M. J., Chauhan, M. V., & Panchal, M. S. (2014). Impact of Teaching Time on Attention and Concentration. Age (in years), 18(22), 23-27.
McClelland, M. M., Acock, A. C., Piccinin, A., Rhea, S. A., & Stallings, M. C. (2013). Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(2), 314-324.
Rabiner, D. L., Carrig, M. M., & Dodge, K. A. (2013). Attention problems and academic achievement: Do persistent and earlier-emerging problems have more adverse long-term effects?. Journal of attention disorders, 1087054713507974.