Directed Attention vs Involuntary Attention

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    Matthew Wetzler

    (Link above) Researchers have amassed a number of experiments that explore the relationship between outdoor spaces and “Attention Restoration Theory”. A piece of Attention Restoration Theory is the idea that humans develop two different types of attention in their youth: “directed attention” and “involuntary attention”.

    One day I was reading a book in the meditation garden and I noticed that Lilia faced in the opposite direction crumpling some dried leaves in her hands. My knee-jerk/adult-brain reacted and told me to call Lilia back to attention –> to the story. However – I delayed this impulse/reaction. As I continued the story I asked the children to act as participants. In the story Papa bear was eating a smelly soup and I gesticulated that I everyone make the same motion. Lilia was drawn back into the story and we carried on.

    When a child is outdoors during this experience “crumpling leaves” and/or “turned around/physically appearing distant” they have the benefit of sustaining “involuntary attention” outdoors. In this state of being their attention is reset, relaxed, and rehabilitated. As a result they may come back to directed attention – in that moment, or at a later date.

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