Last Week’s Links

Finding It Hard to Focus? Maybe It’s Not Your Fault

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time,” writes James Williams, a technologist turned philosopher and the author of a new book, “Stand Out of Our Light.”

A look at how social media and our obsession with it have created the new “attention economy.”

This Is What Road Rage Does to Your Body

Road rage, a type of fight-or-flight response, “could actually trigger a heart attack or stroke in the hours afterward, according to a 2014 research review from the Harvard School of Public Health.”

A neuroscientist explains what tech does to the reading brain

For anyone who has ever been a reader, there’s much to sympathize with in Maryanne Wolf’s Reader, Come Home. The UCLA neuroscientist, a great lover of literature, tries to read Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, an old favorite, only to realize that she finds him boring and too complex. She wonders why he ever won a Nobel. And Wolf, who previously wrote Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is horrified that this is what has happened to her ability to concentrate.

Here’s an interview with Maryanne Wolf, who explains how technology is changing our brains by making us lose deep attention:

My biggest worry now is that a lot of what we’re seeing in society today — this vulnerability to demagoguery in all its forms — of one unanticipated and never intended consequence of a mode of reading that doesn’t allow critical analysis and empathy.

Maybe Your Sleep Problem Isn’t a Problem

As a night owl myself, I was glad to read this in-depth look at the stereotypes (lazy, unproductive) commonly associated with those of us whose innate circadian rhythm doesn’t jibe with the rest of the world’s schedule:

Yes, I get it. I have heard this all my life: Society likes morning people. Loves them, actually. Early risers tend to be more punctual, get better grades in school and climb up the corporate ladder. These so-called larks are celebrated as the high achievers, the apple polishers, the C.E.O.s.

But according to Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Why We Sleep:

about 40 percent of the population are morning people, 30 percent are evening people, and the remainder land somewhere in between. “Night owls are not owls by choice,” he writes. “They are bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hard wiring. It is not their conscious fault, but rather their genetic fate.”

‘Let the soul dangle’: how mind-wandering spurs creativity

Whether in the form of literature, rap or abstract oil painting, many of us know we can improve the tenor of our thoughts by contemplating art. The Germans have a lovely saying for the benefits of keeping an idle (or idling) mind: ‘die Seele baumeln lassen’, meaning ‘let the soul dangle’. Now, the emerging science of neuroaesthetics is beginning to reveal the biological processes that sit behind such ‘dangling’.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

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