Contents page 1 — “Our idea of attention is a big Illusion” page 2 — “Why should this change in focus is the optimal strategy?” Page 3 — “Depends on the attention to the rhythm of the day?” On a page

While you are reading this Text, dear reader, believe, presumably, that you do concentrates the high reading. In fact, your brain changes several times per second, the focus – without you even realizing it. All of the 125 to 250 Milli-seconds varies to out-of-focus our attention from highly focused and back again. The have now found researchers at the Princeton University (Neuron: fever grain et. al., 2018; Neuron: Helfrich et. al., 2018). One of the authors of the study, Sabine Kastner, a Professor of neuroscience and psychology at the Neuroscience Institute in Princeton. TIME ONLINE has spoken with her about the meaning of this focus change.

Zeit ONLINE: Ms. Kastner, you have found together with your colleagues, that our attention is clearly more volatile than we think. What you have researched, exactly?

Sabine Kastner: We wanted to know what happens in the brain when we turn to an external stimulus attention and the brain processes this stimulus. In our Experiment, we have bound the attention of our subjects to a certain place on a computer screen, and there you will have after an indefinite time a weak light stimulus to discover.

TIME ONLINE: What have you found out?

Sabine Kastner is Professor of neuroscience and psychology at Princeton University. © private

Kastner: we have people every couple of Hundred milliseconds to shift our focus. After about 500 milliseconds, we are on a peak, can focus very well on the external stimulus. In our Experiment, the test persons have been able to discover the weak light stimulus in this period. And 130 milliseconds later, the attention fell to ten percent, you were not able to find the light stimulus so easy. This was a complete surprise.


Kastner: We humans believe that we can focus our attention consciously on a point, that is, so to speak, an act of the will. If I sit in the office, then I can decide whether I watch on the computer screen in front of me or on my Smartphone. What we see in this study, however, is the exact opposite: Our attention to automatic processes. Of course we will inform once the attention somewhere. But what happens then is beyond our perception. It happens unconsciously.

TIME ONLINE: From a subjective point of view, it seems inconceivable that our attention changes so quickly – we notice in everyday life.

Kastner: That’s what makes the discovery so unexpected. Hermann von Helmholtz has raised the question of whether our perception is continuous or discontinuous. So far we have always assumed that attention acts over time, not static, that it remains so over a longer period of time in a similar way. You read an exciting book, so you can focus sometimes for hours on end. You start to wander off then, certainly, but still you have the impression that you are focusing for a long time. Our Team has for the first time can prove that this subjective idea of how we perceive attention, is a great Illusion.