aesmael: (probably quantum)

On my drive home tonight I was listening to an episode of ABC Radio's All in the Mind program, an episode called "Placenta Brain: the cognitive burden of pregnancy?". Amid all the talk of whether being pregnant induces cognitive impairment[1], this exchange struck me as relevant from an autistic perspective.

Mary Ann Stark: We all use both voluntary and involuntary attention and the involuntary attention - or what we call fascination - is where you can't help but be attracted to a certain stimuli. For example, thunder and lightening are something that we all just pause and stop, it's fascinating. Then there's another type of attention that's called directed attention, is what I've chosen to call it, and so have some others such as Kaplan and Semprich - but the directed attention is the kind of attention that really requires effort. That's what we have to use to listen carefully, as someone's explaining directions to us.

Abbie Thomas: It's like when I'm trying to sort of tell my husband about what we're doing on the weekend, he has to really concentrate and block out the fact that he wants to go and so some model railway work.

Mary Ann Stark: Or you know a football game on TV might be a little bit more interesting too and more fascinating. But you do use both of those types of attention and their appropriate at different times for different reasons. But what happens especially in our very fast paced lives is we tend to use directed attention a lot. We use it consistently and it's one of those things that because we're blocking out the distractions around us requires a lot of effort. And if we continually use it, it tends to fatigue. Well one of the ways that you can kind of give directed attention a break is to just do the things that are fascinating and that's what nature does. It allows us opportunities to just become fascinated with what's going on around us, and then when we have to use that directed attention again we're a little bit more refreshed and restored, so that we can block out the distractions that we need to block out in order to continue driving and following the map or whatever the example is we might use.

[1] The conclusion I took from the episode is that this effect may be an illusion brought on by stereotyped expectation, along with possibly the amplified load of trying to continue living while also preparing large life changes. But that is more or less what I expected to be the case going in, and biases being confirmed merits some suspicion.

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aesmael

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