We are being watched

cropped-2018-12-02-15.10.42I noticed a while back Fleur would track my own attention habits. She also lingered on things, even returned to them well after I stopped.

Yu and IU colleague Linda Smith evaluated attention span in infants at play. The team employed head-mounted cameras to track the eye movements and gazes of three dozen parents and infants aged 11 to 13 months, who were turned loose in a play space and asked to simply play as they would at home with brightly colored plastic objects.

This kind of “free play” data enabled Yu and Smith to chart childhood concentration and learning in ways that traditional experiments involving a single child at work on a computer or other task could not, notes cognitive neuroscientist Sam Wass, of Cambridge University and the University of East London. “They show that what the parent is paying attention to, minute by minute and second by second, actually influences what the child is paying attention to,” he notes. “These kinds of social influences on attention are potentially very important [and] most scientists tend to ignore them.”

When parents paid attention to a toy during play, the infants also continued to focus on it—even after the mom or dad had turned elsewhere. The authors likened this effect to the way a parent will initially hold the back of a bike while their child learns to peddle before letting go and sending them off on their own.

We also try to label things to which Fleur is paying attention. And have also noticed the problem the article describes of not having much success getting her to shift her attention to something.

Meditation instead of a timeout

I despised timeout. Not because it was effective, but because it seemed pointless. I failed to spend the time thinking about what I did wrong. Instead, I spent the time thinking about how stupid it was. And what I could be doing or what I would do when it was over. Or playing with whatever I had around me: wall textures, things on my person, etc. This approach looks interesting.

Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead.

The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it’s filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

Mindful meditation has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. Recently, though, science has started looking at its effects on our minds and bodies, and it’s finding some interesting effects.

One study, for example, suggested that mindful meditation could give practicing soldiers a kind of mental armor against disruptive emotions, and it can improve memory too. Another suggested mindful meditation could improve a person’s attention span and focus.