Rewired: The Psychology of Technology

How technology influences family life, education, the workplace, and every waking moment of our lives.

Attention Alert: A Study on Distraction Reveals Some Surprises

We may be more distracted from inside our brains than from outside our bodies. Read More

Attention Alert:

I am wondering if the focus should not be so much on the distractions caused by "technology" as the distractions caused by other people.

If we go back to the years immediately following WWII, we saw workers and students exercising discipline in both classrooms and offices. Offices were, at the time, open with row after row of desks side by side.

Offices grew to allow space between workers; schools opted for more space per student. But at the same time, society was becoming significantly less rigid and formal. In schools the consequences of chatting with one's neighbours lessened. In offices, it became common to refer to the supervisors by first name rather than Mrs. or Mr.

Then came cubicles to separate the individuals, requiring less discipline to maintain focus.

Today technology breaches even the closed doors and muffling carpets of the executive suite. We are once again in the open classroom, and the large common office. We see technology as distraction.

Yet for the most part it is not the technology - it is the PERSON on the other end of it.

We are wired for social interaction and being distracted by one another. It is why "excuse me" and "by your leave" were such important parts of Victorian and pre-Victorian manners.

Could it be that Attention Deficit is not the disorder? Perhaps what we are seeing in those who concentrate on various tasks to the exclusion of the distractions around them are the exceptions. They may have Stimulus Response Deficit Disorder.

Learnign you really need to concentrate

One of the best things that happened to my concentration recently was, surprisingly, a mild relapse with hypomania.

Then I realised I had better concentrate on one thing at a time or I'd NEVER get anyone work done. I could see I had a low grade hypomania going on for years and thus I was quite distractable.

Now I needed to focus, and I did. My time management improved. I was reviewing my work at home every evening. I need to to survive. And I've learnt my lesson. I've learnt many lessons see here for details....

Actually it happened with me,

Actually it happened with me, I used not to be able focusing in one reading for whole 3 years, however coincidently I decided to give up trying, then started to have a look on my FB accounts or any likewise each 2_3 min, it worked well it gives you something like energy or excitement to continue reading as well as reading is boring,also I tried thinking about my passions before starting any kind of job to start at it well, it worked too to maintain such concentration needed to study or to write....

I believe technology is

I believe technology is somewhat corrupting education. It is nice to have computers, smart boards, etc., but I don't think cell phones, iPods, etc. should be tolerated in schools. I agree that technology is a distraction to one's ability to pay attention. I am still young but I remember when cell phones did not exist. Many people think the convenience factor outweighs every other aspect. This country has been trained to want things "right now."


I do not agree with the conclusion that to focus or to learn to focus is the answer. What the students are doing, is, repeat is focusing, except on an environment full of distractions. So I blame the environment.

Control group?

Did you have a control group of students who didn't have a smartphone or a laptop? I bet they would be distracted even if all they had was a notebook to doodle on. Been there, done that.

Building brains

great article and concepts. The brain is truly 'plastic' in so many ways. We used to fear that robots would take over the world; Perhaps technologie's impact on our own cognition is more insidious but equally concerning.

Also, any relation to the late Barry Rosen,MD? a friend of mine and quite a likeness to yourself.

students point of view

as a student in school I do agree with the idea that technology distracts us from our work (seeing as I am victim to Facebook in the middle of class) but I also have to disagree with the notion that it is the entire problem. For example, even if my phone is flat I can be distracted by a piece of paper and a pen. I believe the problem is that people of today are used to distraction and therefor look for that distraction out of habit. Think about it, when a baby cry's what do you give it? a distraction. when you get bored what do you look for? a way out. The large problem with technology is that it provides that instant distraction, it is becoming far to easy to find a distraction in this world full of instant, pocket sized, distractions.

Excellent observations!

Thank you for your astute observations about the "instant distractions" offered by our pocket-sized computers that we carry everywhere. This goes a long way in explaining issues such as pocket vibration syndrome where we have totally reconceptualized, at a neuronal level, the meaning of a tingling sensation from an itch to an alert or notification.

latest information?

Do you have another article on this topic? I don't mean to be a pest but I've been researching this topic for a while and so far cannot find any information later than early 2013. I would be interested to see any new information you have on this topic. Thankyou

request for more articles

Hi there, The best source for more work in this area would be to go to my website ( and then scroll to Research --> Published work. This is where our articles are housed and each reviews the literature in the area.
More to come!

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Larry Rosen, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills and the author of Rewired.


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