More on Attention and Cognitive Control

Upon inspection there are probably few cognitive tasks that could not benefit from better expenditures of attention.  Consider reading, for example.  I frequently find myself rereading portions of text that I have just read either because my attention waned or I was skimming and missed essential information while skimming.  Acronyms typically present a problem for me.  I need to reread the text to pick up the acronym, whereas if I had expended the necessary attention encoding the acronym when it was first encountered, I would not have lost the considerable time spent in rereading.  Summarizing as one reads can be beneficial.  And don’t overlook critical reading.  Does the text hold together logically?  Does it make sense?  If the text is nonfiction, can you think of any external information that contradicts the text.  Keep the mind active when reading.  Sometimes we can fall into the habit of moving our eyes and turning the page without engaging the mind to the extent needed.

The psychologist Stine-Morrow has developed an hypothesis of cognitive aging.1  The Stine-Morrow Hypothesis stresses the importance of the appropriate allocation of attention and effort in warding off cognitive declines.  In other words, the Stine-Morrow Hypothesis stresses the importance of effective cognitive control in warding off cognitive decline. Her ideas coincide nicely with those of Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., a professor at the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscienses at the University of California at San Diego.  In turn, Dr. Merzenich’s ideas fit nicely with Kahneman’s Two System Theory that was presented in a previous blog post, “The Two System View of Cognition.”  Remember that System Two processes are effortful and require attention.  System One processes, which are the product of learning and experience, are relatively effortless.   The older an individual is, the more developed are those System One processes that facilitate cognition.  Consequently, there is a great temptation to rely upon these System One processes and become a creature of habit.  Merzenich and the Stine-Morrow Hypothesis warn against relying too heavily on System One Processes.  Effortful engagement of System Two processes can be beneficial in warding off cognitive decline.  System Two processes are engaged whenever we try or learn new things.  Thus engaging in new activities and in new areas of knowledge can be quite beneficial. 

1Stine-Morrow, A. L. (2008).  The Dumbledore Hypothesis of Cognitive Aging.  Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 295-299.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: