Scientists think they may have discovered the reason we all get so easily distracted.
And it turns out it’s not only due to the proliferation of animals being cute and gifs of people hurting themselves that the internet has blessed us with.
According to the indy100, a new report published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology claims that your level of distraction is determined by how engaged you are with the task you’re doing.
The generally accepted theory was that the more difficult you find a task, the more distractions the human brain tries to find.
However, professors Simona Buetti and Alejandro Lleras – both psychologists from the University of Illinois – decided to put this theory to the test.
Participants were asked to complete a maths problem, while photographs of neutral scenes – stuff like fields, cows and flowers – were flashed on a screen at three second intervals.
A device tracked their eye movements, recording how often they looked up from their problems, and for how long.
And the results were surprising. Contrary to the prevailing theory, the results actually showed that they were more likely to be distracted when solving the simpler problems.
Professor Beutti said:
This suggests that focus on complex mental tasks reduces a person’s sensitivity to events in the world that are not related to those tasks.
When people are engrossed in something they fail to notice unexpected happenings in their immediate environment.
The study also noted that participants who were given a mixture of easy and hard problems were just as focused as those who were only given easy tasks.
From this, Buetti and Lleras concluded:
The characteristics of the task itself – like its difficulty – do not alone predict distractibility.
Other factors also play a role – like the ease with which we can perform a task, as well as how much we decide to cognitively engage in a task.
So if you want to get through a day of undistracted work, it’s time to tackle the tough stuff…