Baggage Check: Unplug Your Attention Span


Where are you reading this? At your office, on a computer screen with a bunch of other windows open while you down your lunch or coffee? Or maybe even on a beach, or a train station in a far away land? It’s vacation time for much of D.C., and I can only hope that everyone is getting at least a little unplugged time.

It’s trite advice — turn off your smart phone for a while — but cognitive researchers are starting to pay attention to just how those gadgets affect our attention spans. And David Strayer, a University of Utah psychology professor who recently organized an exploratory “unplugged” rafting trip, says that attention is “the holy grail.”

“Everything that you’re conscious of, everything you let in, everything you remember and you forget, depends on it,” he said.

An increasing number of researchers believe that what we pay attention to — which, in turn, can be heavily influenced by how much we’re trying to multitask with technology — could have implications for our mental health in myriad ways, playing a role in everything from depression to anxiety.

So, what happened on that rafting trip? The New York Times recently summed it up, and it’s a must-read — unless you’re on vacation.

Talk back to Dr. Andrea by leaving a comment below. To ask a question for Baggage Check in the Express print edition, e-mail baggage@readexpress.com or submit an anonymous question here.

Dr. Andrea Bonior writes Express' advice column, Baggage Check.
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Dr. Andrea Bonior | August 17, 2010