Are You Paying Attention?

I passed a rune stone without noticing it for 3.5 years. Today I wondered what else do I see but not see on a daily basis?

As a photographer I like to think that I notice a little more than other people. I am always scoping a location or examining something to determine if it might be a good subject for a photo.

Routine Kills

Rune stone U19 classified as  iron age and from between 500 and 1050. The runic inscription approximately says "Frösten raised this stone for Hadske, his father." Found 1868.

As I pondered my inability to see that darn rune stone, I concluded, for me, it relates directly to routine. The more I travel a route, the more I walk the same path, the less I notice. In order for me to notice something it must move suddenly, change in some way, or become the subject of another focussed thought. In the rune stone case, I was curious about where else on Ekerö there were rune stones and this led me to it on the map and then I saw it on the hill.

Focus a Little Bit Grasshopper

In all cases more effort and energy is required to focus on previously unfocussed objects. In another recent post, No Attention Please, We’re Swedish I discussed a general lack of attention our society has towards other people and situations. Unless you are a highly trained Jason Bourne-like character or spy, it is impossible to notice or focus on everything but we seem to have gone into the numb and dumb direction instead. Some of this behaviour is in our genes, and some of it is a consequence of our environment.Grasshopper

We All Have Limited Attention

This blog is not intended to be a scientific resource nor am I  an expert on this subject. Some simple Internet research did reveal that Dr. Reuven Dukas is an expert (from the evolutionary biology angle).  There is a plethora of research from the psychological perspective, too, but the key points I want to make are best summarized from Dr. Dukas’ papers:

…limited attention… means the brain can process information only at some finite rate (Dukas, R. 2009. “Evolutionary Biology of Limited Attention”pp. 147-161 In: L. Tommasi L. Nadel, and M. Peterson (eds) Cognitive Biology: Evolutionary and Developmental Perspectives on Mind, Brain, and Behavior. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.)

…attentional mechanisms enable the brain to focus only on the most essential information at any given time (Dukas, R. 2002. “Behavioural and ecological consequences of limited attention” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., 1539-1547),

A Cute Awareness

English: Charles Darwin

When we direct our whole attention to any one sense, its acuteness is increased. Charles Darwin, 1872

This is why once you notice something you cannot stop noticing it, but until you focus, it just is another non-threatening item in our peripheral vision.

My cats never see the Temptations treat I place in front of them. They can smell it but unless I make it move like a mouse or point at it, they just cannot find it.

How to Focus and Notice

These photos are part of my own training to focus and notice my surroundings more.

Look up more often

Look up

Color Me Happy

Color Me Happy

Look Up for Color and Movement

Look Up for Color and Movement

Look for Real Next to Not Real


Timing is Everything

Focus but don't focus

Focus but don’t focus


4 thoughts on “Are You Paying Attention?

  1. I too have found that the more I do something the less I pay attention to my surroundings, even though I always try to have a camera at hand in one way or another! Thanks for the post – I think I’ll try and keep my eyes peeled just a little more, even during the daily grind!

    • It is much easier in the spring and summer when the light and color is everywhere. Although I do wear my headphones, I try to be alert and cognizant still of my surroundings. That is of course also a good thing for safety reasons 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  2. I learned this when I was about 12. I used to search for rare wildflowers that are camouflaged by their color or leaves. So often they were right in front of me, and after I stopped trying so hard, I found them.

  3. “…limited attention… means the brain can process information only at some finite rate ” – – – some a little more finite than others 😉
    Enjoyed this admonishment – made me want to discover “rune stones” I may have been blind to in my day to day, A to B.

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