Learning to pay attention

Paying attention is a lost art in our noisy, jumbled, hyperactive age, writes Maggie Jackson on Pajamas Media. We’ve forgotten how to single task.

It’s no surprise more children are diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. But can kids learn to focus?

Inspired by skills training of monkeys, Michael Posner and Mary Rothbart at the University of Oregon have developed a five-day computer-based attention-training program for young children. After the training, six-year-olds show a pattern of activity in the anterior cingulate — a banana-shaped brain region that is ground zero for executive attention — similar to that of adults, along with a slight IQ boost and a marked gain in executive attention.

Some schools are experimenting with meditation as a way to train students to focus.

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  1. Training first tested on monkeys?

    I can see a storm of protest from the overly-sensitive here.

    However, young children have much in common, behavior-wise, with primates, as anyone who has visited zoos can attest to. So maybe the same techniques will work for both.

  2. On behalf of my students, I eagerly await the College Edition.

  3. I’m skeptical about schools and meditation.

    The first day of school a child steps into a large space filled with colours and graphics and 25 other excitable young children. Seems like a recipe for inattention.

  4. Let’s start with turning off the television for little kids, getting them to pay attention to activities which involve their hand-eye coordination and give them opportunities to exercise their physical, visual and auditory skills/ development. Research has shown that watching television leads to decreased attention spans.
    We need to recognize our kids’ inherent gifts early to support and grow them!

  5. Fred the Fourth says:

    Sorry…What were you saying?

  6. Fred the Fourth says:

    Actually, I have a theory about this: Young kids don’t have short attention spans. Their parent have short attention spans for the things the kids are interested in. This causes the kids to learn to accept interruptions, and the rest follows…

    I learned this with my baby daughter, when I caught myself wanting to *finish the walk* rather than letting her stay absorbed in the nondescript beetle that had caught her eye. I promised myself right there that I would never do that again. Seems to have worked great with her, and modestly well with her younger brother.

  7. Mrs. Davis says:

    Meditation…Is that like praying?


  1. Wednesday morning links…

    The importance of teaching kids to pay attention, over against the phenomenon of “multitasking”. Lord knows I’m trying to do this with my 2- and 4-year olds. [h/t Joanne Jacobs]
    What college administrators think about college faculty…