Monday, January 04, 2010

The Effect of Feelings on Concentration

This is about the effect of feelings on focused attention and concentration. There is a difference between focused attention and high concentration. Focused attention requires the use of attention resources for a very limited area or task. Concentration is different from focused attention. Concentration does not exclude whole areas of interest unless they can be linked to the subject at one or other level of abstraction. That’s why we talk about deep concentration but not deep focusing.
The effect of feelings, namely getting sentimental or a certain affective mood during a task may have certain effects to the quality of the work done. These effects may be positive in the short term as increasing motivation under /against too much load. They may be negative as the effect of an airplane accident on the air traffic controllers who must still continue to control the remaining hundreds of aircrafts in the air.

Feelings control the thinking speed hence control the depth and establish the context of thinking. Thinking speed is a commonly used term but diffrent hormones effect different parts of the brain and may cause working speeds in those regions. It may not be wise to use thinking speed in place of a global brain speed performance as in CPU speeds of the computers. I refer to the cognitive processing speed of the brain when I mention thinking speed. It is also interesting to question what exactly thinking speed means. Is it the propagation speed of signals in the neural networks via chemical reactions? Or is it the inverse of the resolution duration of a minimal decision taking in the neural networks?

There certainly exist time frames in the brain processing which establish time limits for the propagation of signals in the neural networks. These time limits may be set by hormones which control the chemical conditions that in turn control the propagation conditions in these networks. Feelings effect the hormon production and flow in the body. Hence feelings effect our cognitive abilities, namely decisions.

Speaking of thinking speed, one must not forget the dynamic character and differentiate between minimal and major variations. The effect of minimal variations may be positive on the thinking performance while the reverse on major variations. Also, one must consider the gradual and sudden changes. The effect of gradual changes may create complex situations such as the loss of the situational awareness in pilots while making smalltalk with colleagues. The effect of sudden changes may be good when the operator is well trained and can control the extra influx of the hormones to increase his performance in emergencies.

Last but not the least, the feeling of taste is the key to onderstanding feelings as much as seeing for understanding cognition. Tasting sets the way to feeling and seeing to thinking, developmentally and evolutionarily.