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The Distracted Mind summary

Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen

Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World

4.1 (123 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

The Distracted Mind by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen is a book that explores the impact of technology on our brains, and provides strategies to help us improve our focus and productivity in an age of constant distraction.

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    The Distracted Mind
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    The brain’s limitations mean we easily succumb to interference and distraction.

    The human brain is unquestionably one of the wonders of the universe. With it, we can achieve incredible feats – from solving complicated math problems to learning languages and designing cars and jets.

    In short, it’s one of the most complex systems in the known universe. In fact, it’s this complexity that helps us set goals and perform an incalculable number of tasks. From gossiping with friends to presenting the next big project for colleagues at work, our brain is equipped with decision-making, planning and evaluation abilities. More formally, these are known as executive functions.

    After this planning function, another faculty of the brain is necessary to actually accomplish tasks. Specifically, we need cognitive control. These are cognitive abilities like attention, goal management and working memory.

    If we didn’t have cognitive control, there’d be no way to make conscious decisions that inform and have an impact upon our lives. Instead, we’d just respond unthinkingly and mechanically to the world around us.

    Imagine you’re wandering the aisles of your local supermarket because you need food and drinks for friends who are coming over that night. If you were to suddenly lose all cognitive control, your ability to pay attention to and remember that goal would simply vanish. Instead of tracking down beer and snacks, you’d be walking through the aisles without aim.

    Unfortunately, nowadays, our cognitive control is under more stress and strain than ever before. Consequently, we are distracted from our goals even more.

    This has a lot to do with complexity and the complicated nature of the brain in particular. More complex systems are more vulnerable to interference.

    If we’d evolved so that we could cognitively control our minds despite constant interference, that would be great. But we haven’t.

    In fact, our cognitive control seems to have evolved less than our executive functions. In other words, we’re collectively great at setting goals but far worse at seeing them through.

    This explains why we all tend to forget tasks like calling on a friend’s birthday or turning off the lights.

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    What is The Distracted Mind about?

    The Distracted Mind (2016) explains the basic structures of the brain and questions how well it can function in a world stuffed full of high-tech gadgets and constant distractions. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, it offers practical solutions for how to resist all these distractions and regain focus.

    The Distracted Mind Review

    The Distracted Mind (2016) explores the impact of technology on our ability to focus and offers techniques for cultivating better attention spans. Here's why this book is worth your time:

    • Through a mix of scientific research and practical tips, it offers actionable strategies for overcoming distraction and regaining control of our minds.
    • By examining the intersection of technology and cognitive neuroscience, it provides a forward-thinking perspective on the challenges of the digital age.
    • The book's engaging examples and relatable anecdotes make it an enjoyable read, ensuring that the topic of attention is far from boring.

    Best quote from The Distracted Mind

    ... our impressive goal-setting abilities have resulted in the conditions necessary for goal interference to exist in the first place.

    —Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen
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    Who should read The Distracted Mind?

    • Anyone struggling to keep focused at work
    • Psychology students
    • People who are afraid of missing out

    About the Author

    Adam Gazzaley is an American professor and neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. He is also the founder of Neuroscape, a neuroscience center devoted to the understanding and optimization of human brain functions.

    Larry D. Rosen is an American researcher and professor emeritus of psychology at California State University. He is the author of Me, MySpace, and I (2012) and IDisorder (2007). He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and a recognized expert on the effect of technology on human lives and psychology.

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    The Distracted Mind FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Distracted Mind?

    The main message of The Distracted Mind is the impact of technology on our attention and strategies to regain focus.

    How long does it take to read The Distracted Mind?

    It takes several hours to read The Distracted Mind. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Distracted Mind a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Distracted Mind is a valuable read to understand the science of attention and improve focus. Highly recommended!

    Who is the author of The Distracted Mind?

    The authors of The Distracted Mind are Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen.

    What to read after The Distracted Mind?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Distracted Mind, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Get Smart! by Brian Tracy
    • Focus by Daniel Goleman
    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King
    • Retrain Your Brain by Seth J. Gillihan
    • The Wandering Mind by Michael C. Corballis
    • Biohack Your Brain by Kristen Willeumier
    • Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku