Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mind wandering


Think about how often it happens that you're in an orienteering race, having a good race and suddenly you catch yourself thinking of something else. If you're lucky, you catch yourself and regain concentration. Sometimes you're unlucky and you realize you aren't exactly sure where you are. You lose time.

Michael Kane and Jonathon Schooler, both psychologist, have been studying how peoples minds wander. Some of their research was summarized in today's NY Times. It struck me as very relevant to orienteering.

One experiment involved having people take a little survey at random intervals. Basically, an alarm would go off and the subject would have to answer some questions about what they'd been doing and thinking immediately before the alarm rang.

The researchers found that people's minds wander a lot. No surprise. Even when they were doing a fairly concentrated task, like reading, people's minds wandered 15-20 percent of the time. They also discovered that people's minds often wandered without knowing. Again, no surprise.

Here is a quote from the news story:

''The mind is always trying to wander, every chance it gets,'' Schooler said. In his view, the mind has not only the goal of achieving whatever task we're focused on, but also personal goals simmering outside of our immediate awareness. These are things like making plans for the future, working out everyday problems, and better understanding oneself. Sometimes, one of these goals hijacks our attention. And so our mind wanders.

The research sounds interesting. I'll have to try to poke around the web pages of Kane and Schooler and see if I can find more information.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 9:12 PM


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