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United Kingdom Science

Easily Distracted People May Have 'Too Much Brain' 246

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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  • Re:Flamebait Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @01:09PM (#36064332) Homepage Journal

    Hah, indeed. I used to not notice my teacher calling my name in early primary school because I was so focused on my schoolwork. She encouragingly gave me the nickname "cloth ears". I can still be oblivious to things happening around me when I'm focused, though I am more likely to notice if someone says my name at least. I'd rather be able to focus like that than have everything distract me. Especially if I'm reading a book at home or something like that.

    I was working in a busy office for the last couple of years with people often trying to get my attention, and my ability to focus on work dropped drastically even when they were being quiet. Now that I'm in a quieter office, things are improving again, because I'm no longer anticipating distractions.

    With stuff like observing road signs, you can train yourself to be more attentive to them too. There's not that much point reading them every time on roads you know well, though being aware of possible new signs is useful.

  • Re:Flamebait Summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hyperquantization ( 804651 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @01:10PM (#36064340)

    The summary unfairly rewards low-grade abuse-resistant machines/brains.

    It should've been "Focused, Productive People May Have 'Not Enough Brain'.

    The article reconciles what you see as a discrepancy with the line:

    ...the brain's grey matter is pruned of neurons in order to work more efficiently.

    He suggests that a greater volume of grey matter may indicate a less mature brain, perhaps reflecting a mild developmental malfunction.

  • Re:ADHD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @02:51PM (#36065096)
    Actually, ADHD is normal. It would be required to survive in a jungle environment, where virtually anything could be a threat to you, so you need to keep flitting your attention from one thing to another to survive. The ability to stay focused on one thing to the exclusion of all others for a significant period of time is a relatively recent development in humans which is only useful in an academic environment where what you learn and when you learn it is dictated by others. In an ideal society, it shouldn't be necessary for everyone to have exactly the same executive function capabilities.
  • Re:Flamebait Summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Sunday May 08, 2011 @05:37PM (#36066272) Homepage Journal

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

    Elite has everything to do with privilege and nothing whatsoever to do with being gifted (in the sense of higher intelligence, anyway).

    I went to high school in a neighbourhood that had one of my city's most elite neighbourhoods on one side and a working class ghetto (home to a number of mafia families and one motorcycle gang) on the other. The 'elite' students were better fed, better dressed, better spoken and better behaved, for the most part, but if they were smarter, they hid it well.

    Education and opportunity may give you a head start in life, but don't for a second try to pretend that these advantages somehow make you smarter or better than anyone else. Harvard may demand you work at a higher level, but its cachet is that you can make friends with rich people, and with luck some of that rich will rub off on you.

    The highly intelligent are usually the opposite of elite: They are so caught up with ideas, and so desperate for the company of people who actually understand them, that they are willing to overlook most of the social markers (accent, clothing, income, residence) that most people use to grade each other.

    Whenever I hear the term 'intellectual elite', I wonder if such a thing is even possible, because anyone stupid enough to hang that term on a group has to be lying.

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