What’s Happening in Your Brain When You’re Focused (and Distracted)
The Two-Step Process: What Happens When You FocusThe brain goes through two main steps when it’s focused on a task. It’s thought that selective focus is controlled by the top-down attention system. This system is under your control and asks a simple question, “What do you want to focus on?” When you decide to focus on something, the brain goes through two steps to sort and understand the information.
- Visually, you take in all information in a scene and start processing the information to find what you need to pay attention to. Picture the process like a blurry photo that slowly starts to come into focus.
- The second part involves focusing on one single aspect. As that same photo comes into focus, the attention starts to zoom in on the one aspect you want to pay attention to.
From what I’ve studied, it seems that both the right and left brain are working efficiently together, but able to screen out peripheral distractions. Time seems to disappear and you and the thing you’re doing feel as though they’ve become one. Such flow states have aspects in common with trance states, though it’s tough to do MRIs of someone writing a book or playing a game.Photo by Mike Warot.