Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

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Penguin, 2009 - Psychology - 244 pages
11 Reviews
Winifred Gallagher revolutionizes our understanding of attention and the creation of the interested life

In Rapt, acclaimed behavioral science writer Winifred Gallagher makes the radical argument that the quality of your life largely depends on what you choose to pay attention to and how you choose to do it. Gallagher grapples with provocative questions┬—Can we train our focus? What┬'s different about the way creative people pay attention? Why do we often zero in on the wrong factors when making big decisions, like where to move?┬—driving us to reconsider what we think we know about attention.

Gallagher looks beyond sound bites on our proliferating BlackBerries and the increased incidence of ADD in children to the discoveries of neuroscience and psychology and the wisdom of home truths, profoundly altering and expanding the contemporary conversation on attention and its power. Science┬'s major contribution to the study of attention has been the discovery that its basic mechanism is an either/or process of selection. That we focus may be a biological necessity┬— research now proves we can process only a little information at a time, or about 173 billion bits over an average life┬—but the good news is that we have much more control over our focus than we think, which gives us a remarkable yet underappreciated capacity to influence our experience. As suggested by the expression ┬“pay attention,┬” this cognitive currency is a finite resource that we must learn to spend wisely. In Rapt, Gallagher introduces us to a diverse cast of characters┬—artists and ranchers, birders and scientists┬—who have learned to do just that and whose stories are profound lessons in the art of living the interested life. No matter what your quotient of wealth, looks, brains, or fame, increasing your satisfaction means focusing more on what really interests you and less on what doesn┬'t. In asserting its groundbreaking thesis┬—the wise investment of your attention is the single most important thing you can do to improve your well-being┬—Rapt yields fresh insights into the nature of reality and what it means to be fully alive.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - deldevries - LibraryThing

What an awesome collection of literature of attention and focus. The author has compiled a densely packed, but slim, volume of ideas that are best savored over and over in small bites (focused ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - pratalife - LibraryThing

The central thesis is interesting and compelling: we experience in full what we attend to, but unfortunately our attention is seldom under the degree of conscious control that we might like to think ... Read full review


INTRODUCTION Choosing the Focused Life I
Your Life Depends on It
Feelings Frame Focus
What You See Is What You Get
Born to Focus
This Is Your Brain on Attention
Attending to Different Worlds
Work Zone
An Eye for Detail
Focus Interruptus
Disordered Attention
Eyes on the Prize m
Energy Goes Where Attention Flows
Attending to What Matters Most

Focusing Illusions

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About the author (2009)

Winifred Gallagher's books include Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and The Power of Place. She has written for numerous publications, such as Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. She lives in Manhattan and Dubois, Wyoming.

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