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Easily Distracted People May Have 'Too Much Brain' 246

Posted by timothy
from the so-so-true dept.
fysdt writes with this excerpt from New Scientist: "Those who are easily distracted from the task in hand may have 'too much brain.' So says Ryota Kanai and his colleagues at University College London, who found larger than average volumes of grey matter in certain brain regions in those whose attention is readily diverted. To investigate distractibility, the team compared the brains of easy and difficult-to-distract individuals. [Abstract] They assessed each person's distractibility by quizzing them about how often they fail to notice road signs, or go into a supermarket and become sidetracked to the point that they forget what they came in to buy. The most distractible individuals received the highest score."
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Easily Distracted People May Have 'Too Much Brain'

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  • by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Sunday May 08, 2011 @01:49PM (#36064610) Homepage Journal

    This is something that has been known for a very long time. The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) was pretty much founded on the premise that intelligent kids become disruptive in schools because they're bored witless (ie: become easily distracted) with the humdrum that is necessary for everyone else.

    What this article (and summary) should be focussing on is not the fact that intelligent people can be distracted but on why society is under-utilizing their capabilities to such an extent that boredom is possible. Once a problem has been identified and a solution worked on for a specific sector (in this case kids) for 4 decades or more, it is surely not acceptable for the problem to be allowed to fester in all other parts of society. It is surely even less acceptable for researchers to not be aware that solutions already exist but aren't being used.

  • Re:And...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Sunday May 08, 2011 @01:58PM (#36064690) Homepage Journal

    The practical application, IMHO, is for society to utilize intelligent people more for tasks that demand high intelligence. Distractability == boredom. In the Age of Enlightenment, this involved funding the highly intelligent to go make use of that intelligence. In the modern era, serious research is often confined to those who stay in academia - and, even then, with universities increasingly funded by corporations to perform all the menial work, the condition of research is pathetic.

    What we need are dedicated facilities for the highly intelligent to push them to the limits of their mental capacity, funded not to produce specific results but to see what happens. "Blue sky" from an outside perspective, but not necessarily to the researchers themselves who would be free to do what they wanted. I absolutely guarantee the rewards of such a venture for society would vastly outstrip the costs, and the rewards for the intelligent to be in a meaningful environment rather than a mundane one would be beyond price.

  • by ardle (523599) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @02:01PM (#36064732)

    What this article (and summary) should be focussing on is not the fact that intelligent people can be distracted but on why society is under-utilizing their capabilities to such an extent that boredom is possible

    Society under-utilizes gifted people because otherwise gifted people would become some kind of "elite" ;-)

  • Apparently my cheap-ass university doesn't have download rights to the original article in Neuroscience, but my guess is that the weak point is in the paper-and-pencil questionarre. The problem is that they aren't asking people how often they get distracted... they're asking people how often they _remember_ getting distracted.

    An equally valid hypothesis is that big-brained people remember getting distracted more than small-brained people.

    Again, I haven't RTFA so maybe they deal with it. They talk about inheritability of the 'distraction' scores, but that just means that it's something either genetic or social. In fact, there could instead be a correlation between 'big brained' and 'more honest'.

  • by hyperquantization (804651) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @03:17PM (#36065270)

    That's not bias. It's called context and the Scientific Method: the theory that the article is basing its conclusions off is as the article states. Our understanding of the human brain is rather pitiful, so claiming a theory here as "unfair" is unfair to the theory itself.

    Don't assume bias simply because a theoretical conclusion that is made doesn't agree with your own hypotheses. Science is full of opinions that evolve and shift, and this may be no exception. However, taking insult based upon a theory is exactly what ruins Science as a field; ignoring models because they violate "political correctness" is just bad Science. Maybe PC needs to step it up and join ranks for a paradigm shift.

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @04:06PM (#36065566)

    The article doesn't say that more intelligent people are more easily distracted. It says that a specific region of the brain has more grey matter in children than in adults. When some adults fail to prune the extra grey matter, they tend be more more easily distracted than those who develop normally.

    To paraphrase: if your brain doesn't rot in the usual way, you won't become a perfect cog.

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