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提高注意力的五种科学方法

更新时间:2017/10/19 10:47:31 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

Five ways science can improve your focus
提高注意力的五种科学方法

The internet is bursting with advice on how to concentrate amid a sea of distractions. But many of them are either wildly unrealistic or leave you out of the office loop and distracted by thoughts of what you might be missing. How many of us can “always find what you do inspiring and fun” or would be comfortable turning off social media, spending the day wearing headphones, or working offline?

互联网上充斥着各种各样的建议,教给我们如何在面对大量干扰因素的时候集中注意力。但其中的很多方法要么根本不切实际,要么把你排除在办公室的环境之外,甚至导致你担心错过什么东西而心烦意乱。我们中有多少人"始终觉得自己所做的事情鼓舞人心且乐趣十足",又有多少人能够心甘情愿地关掉社交网络,或者一整天带着耳机,甚至离线工作?

Perhaps more importantly, however, many of these tips bear little relation to what psychologists are discovering about the way the human mind works.

然而,更重要的或许在于,其中的很多建议跟心理学家发现的人类思维运作方式没有多大关系。

Many of the things we think we should be doing to help us concentrate actually work against the way that our brain naturally operates. So what can we learn from the science of focus to get more done, and do any of common tips actually work?

事实上,我们认为有助于集中精力的很多事情,反而违背了大脑的自然运作方式。既然如此,我们如何利用注意力科学来完成更多任务?我们经常听到的建议中有没有真正有用的呢?

Zone out

白日梦

It might seem counter-intuitive, but allowing your mind to wander may be one of the best approaches if you are struggling to focus. There is a growing realisation among psychologists that we spend an awful lot of time daydreaming – almost 50% of the time by some measures. This has led some psychologists to suggest that mind wandering is not so much a glitch, but rather a key part of the system itself that can help our brains function.

这似乎违反直觉,但当你难以集中精力时,让思维开个小差或许是最好的应对方式之一。越来越多的心理学家发现,我们会花很多时间做白日梦——按照某些指标来看,这种活动的时间占比甚至高达50%。正因如此,一些心理学家认为心不在焉并不算是一种故障,而是帮助人脑正常运作的整个体系的一个关键组成部分。

Looking at the brain itself can help to reveal that our focus wanes for a good reason. Concentration requires a network of brain regions including the frontal cortex, which is responsible for resisting distractions and controlling our natural impulse to do something more fun. Keeping this network functioning requires more energy than the group of brain regions that are active when we are thinking about nothing in particular. Inevitably, at some point during the day, we run out of steam and that’s when mind wandering kicks in.

研究大脑可以帮助我们明白一件事情:我们的注意力之所以涣散,都是有正当理由的。想要集中注意力,就需要用到包括额皮质在内的一片大脑区域网络,那里负责抵抗干扰,控制我们的自然冲动,阻止我们去做一些更有趣的事情。保证这片网络的正常运转所需的能量,高于我们漫无目的思考时所激活的大脑区域消耗的能量总和。一天之中,我们难免会有精疲力竭的时候,每到此时就会心不在焉。

So if it’s going to happen, then why not schedule it at a convenient time? Paul Seli, a psychologist at Harvard University, has distinguished between deliberate and accidental mind wandering, and says that only the accidental kind is bad for getting stuff done. People who slot in their daydreaming when they know that it won’t matter – when doing mindless admin, for example, suffer less than those whose minds skip off without their say-so, says Seli.

既然不可避免,何不专门为此安排一段时间呢?哈佛大学心理学家保罗·塞里(Paul Seli)曾经专门区分过故意的心不在焉与意外的心不在焉。他表示,只有意外的心不在焉才对我们手头的任务有害。塞里表示,在知道白日梦不会影响自己的情况下主动这么做的人——例如做一些不动脑筋的行政工作——所受的影响低于那些无意间心不在焉的人。

“If the task is easy, intentionally mind wandering will likely not result in performance costs, but it should afford people the opportunity to reap the benefits of mind wandering, such as problem-solving and planning,” he says.

"如果任务很简单,有意识地思维涣散可能不会对你的表现产生影响。但必须要给人们提供从涣散的思维中获益的机会,例如解决问题或制定计划。"他说。

This suggests that deliberately letting your mind off the hook now and again might pay dividends.

此举表明,有意识地让自己的思维时不时地摆脱束缚,或许是有好处的。

“Think about something unrelated, maybe problem-solve something else that you've got on your mind and then come back to your task,” suggests Seli.

"可以思考一些毫不相关的事情,比如解决脑海里出现的其他问题,然后再回到手头的任务上来。"塞里说。

Giving yourself permission to think about anything but work not only takes the guilt out of mind wandering, it also helps tick a few things off the mental to-do list that caused the mind wandering in the first place.

允许自己思考工作之外的其他事情,不仅可以缓解思维涣散带来的负罪感,还有助于从内心的待办事项列表中划掉几项原本就会分散精力的事情。

Muck about

找乐子

Funny cat videos are often seen as the ultimate distraction for procrastinators, but some psychologists think that they might actually help put us in the right mental state to get on with work.

在很多人看来,最能分散拖延者注意力的莫过于有趣的猫咪视频了。但有的心理学家认为,这或许可以帮助我们调整合适的心理状态,以便继续从事手头的工作。

This is because, no matter how much you love your job, staying focused on something difficult requires willpower. According to a recent study, a good way to boost your reserves of willpower is to have a good laugh. In experiments, people who had watched a funny video tried longer and harder to complete an impossible puzzle than a control group of people who watched a video that was relaxing but not funny. The study concluded that humour replenishes our reserves so effectively that workplaces should encourage a more “playful” culture.

这是因为,无论你有多么热爱自己的工作,想要集中精力关注难以处理的事情都需要很强的意志力。最近的一项研究发现,笑个痛快是提升意志力储备的好办法。在实验中,在努力完成不可能解开的谜题时,看过搞笑视频的人比对照组(他们观看的视频虽然很轻松,但并不搞笑)尝试的时间更长,也更加努力。该研究认为,幽默可以有效补充我们的意志力储备,因此应该在职场中鼓励"有趣的"文化。

“Creating a culture of fun in your team – where you deliberately find something funny to laugh at, like a funny email or YouTube video would be one way of helping you to boost your work productivity,” says David Cheng, a leadership researcher at the Australia National University in Canberra, who led the research. “Of course this isn’t a blank cheque to watch cat videos all day, but taking the occasional break to joke around is useful, especially when you are feeling really tired.”

"在团队中营造有趣的文化——故意寻找一些可笑的事情,例如可笑的电子邮件或YouTube视频,可以帮助你提高工作效率。"澳大利亚国立大学领导力研究员、这项研究的负责人大卫·郑(David Cheng)说,"当然,也不能毫无节制地整天观看猫咪视频,但偶尔利用休息时间找点乐子的确很有用,尤其是当你感觉非常疲劳时。"

Make it harder

加大难度

To concentrate properly you must get rid of all external distractions, right? Actually, according to one influential theory of attention, the opposite is true.

想要适度集中精力,就必须摆脱所有分散精力的外部因素,对吗?一个颇具影响的注意力理论认为 ,事实恰恰相反。

Nilli Lavie, a psychologist at University College London, came up with what she calls ‘Load Theory’ in 1995. The idea is that there is a limit to how much information from the outside world our brains can process at any one time – once all of these processing ‘slots’ have been filled, the brain’s attention system kicks in to decide what to focus on.

伦敦大学学院心理学家尼利·拉维(Nilli Lavie)在1995年得出了"负荷理论"(Load Theory)。她认为,我们的大脑在任意时间内所能处理的外界信息是有限的——一旦这些处理"槽"都被填满,大脑就会启动注意力系统来决定应该关注哪些事情。

Lavie’s experimentssuggest we might be better to work not in clean, tidy and silent surroundings, but in those that are messy and confusing. It works because once all the perceptual slots have been taken up, the brain has to pour all its energies into focusing on the most important task. Distractions simply get screened out.

拉维的实验认为,最好不要在干净整洁、寂静无声的环境中工作,而应该选择杂乱不清的地方。之所以这样,是因为一旦所有的知觉槽都被占据,大脑就必须集中所有能量关注最重要的任务。干扰因素都会被排除在外。

The problem with putting this into practice, however, is finding the right kind of distraction and keeping it on the right side of being overwhelming. There are a few apps, such as ommwriter or [email protected], that add visual or musical distractions to order, but so far none have been tested in scientific studies and may be no better than putting the radio on.

然而,在付诸实践的过程中面临的问题在于,如何找到合适的干扰因素,避免发生过犹不及。像ommwriter或[email protected]这样的应用程序都能加入视觉和音乐干扰因素,但却没有一款接受过科学检验,所以实际效果可能还不如直接打开收音机。

The key is to give your mind just enough to do, so that your brain doesn't have the chance to look elsewhere for stimulation. For most people it might be a case of trial and error to find what works for them, but since screening out distractions can be tiring, perhaps this is one to use sparingly, when all else has failed.

关键在于给自己找到思维足够多的事情去做,让你的大脑没有机会到其他地方寻找刺激。对多数人来说,或许要通过不断试错才能找到适合自己的方法,但由于排除干扰可能令人疲倦,所以应该慎用这种方法,只有在其他方法都失效的情况下才可以考虑。

Stop working

停止工作

When you’re up against it, taking a break might be the last thing on your mind. But there is a huge amount of evidence to suggest it can actually help you get more done.  The challenge is working out when to take a break, for how long, and what to do with that downtime.

当你面临困难时,停下来休息一下或许是最后的选择。但有很多证据表明,这的确可以帮助你完成更多工作。难点在于找准休息的时机、时长和休息时所做的事情。

Some studies dating from the 1990s suggest that due to natural variations in our cycle of alertness, we can concentrate for no longer than 90 minutes before needing a 15-minute break.

一些可以追溯到20世纪90年代的研究表明,由于我们的警觉周期里存在很多自然变异,所以集中精力的时间不到90分钟就应该休息15分钟。

Other studies have found that even a micro-break of a few seconds will work, provided it is a total distraction – in the studies, people did a few seconds of mental arithmetic, so you may have to do something more  intense than staring out of the window.

还有研究表明,即便是短短几秒钟的休息也可以起到作用,只要这一过程能够完全分散精力即可——在许多研究中,人们会进行几秒钟的心算,所以你或许应该做一些更加激烈的事情,而不是简单地看看窗外。

Exercise is a good thing to do in with your break, as it seems to rev up the brain, putting it into a better state to knuckle back down, particularly, according to this study, if you follow it with a caffeinated drink. Take your exercise outdoors and get a further boost – spending time in nature has long been suspected to improve people’s ability to focus.

休息时间很适合用来锻炼身体,因为这似乎可以加快大脑运转速度。这项研究表明,这么做可以让大脑进入更好的状态,从而做好回去工作的准备,尤其是在锻炼之后喝一杯含有咖啡因的饮料。户外锻炼可以进一步提升效果——人们一直都猜测,与大自然亲密接触可以提升人的专注力。

Meditation is another option. There is growing evidence that experienced meditators have better control over their attention resources than non-meditators and are much better at noticing when it’s time for a break.

冥想也是个不错的选择。越来越多的证据表明,有经验的冥想者比不冥想的人更能控制自己的注意力,也更擅长发现什么时候应该休息。

If that all sounds a bit time-consuming, the good news is that, with or without exercise, a quick dose of caffeine improves memory, reaction time and attention in the short term. So however you choose to take your break, always stop to put the kettle on as you make your way back to your desk.

如果这些听起来有点耗费时间,还有一个好消息可以告诉你:无论是否锻炼,只要喝点咖啡因都能在短期内提升记忆力、反应速度和注意力。所以,无论你选择在休息时干什么,都应该在回到办公桌的时候烧一壶热水。

Don’t try so hard

放松精神

When you need to focus for long periods, less is more, according to studies by Joe DeGutis and Mike Esterman at the Boston Attention and Learning Lab in Massachusetts. In brain imaging experiments, they found that the most successful strategy for staying on course was to focus for a while, and then to take a short break before going back to concentrating. People who tried to be ‘on’ all the time made more mistakes overall.

波士顿注意力和学习实验室的乔·德古迪斯(Joe DeGutis)和麦克·伊斯特曼(Mike Esterman)表示,当你需要长时间保持注意力时,少即是多。在大脑成像实验中,他们发现保持注意力的最佳战略是专注一段时间,然后短暂休息一会儿,之后再重新集中精力。整体而言,时刻绷紧神经的人会犯更多的错误。

Similarly, research by Christian Olivers of Vrije University in Amsterdam found that people’s attention resources stretched a little bit further when they were simply told to back off and think about something else instead of concentrating fully.

类似地,阿姆斯特丹自由大学(Vrije University)的克里斯蒂安·奥利弗(Christian Olivers)进行的研究发现,当人们被告知放松精神,想想其他事情,而不要始终集中精力时,他们的注意力资源能够得到更大范围的延伸。

This, in fact, may be the most useful outcome of all the research into focus. The more we know about the brain, the clearer it is that stress is the enemy of concentration. So take the time to do whatever it takes to feel calmer and more in control, and, with luck, the work will take care of itself.

这或许是所有针对注意力的研究中最有用的结果。我们对大脑了解得越深,就越会发现压力是专心的敌人。所以,一定要花些时间做点能让你感觉平静且能够掌控的事情,运气好的话,工作的事情都会迎刃而解。

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