1. We gradually become less attentive as we age—and not just because we stop giving a damn. The phenomenon is due to a shrinking “useful field of view,” the feature of visual attention that helps us recognize at a glance what’s important to focus on. Studies show that kids have a similarly limited field of view, hindering their ability to register the complete visual world around them.
- Rebecca Heilweil
3 Smart Things: The Hidden Lives of Liquids
- Rebecca Heilweil
3 Smart Things About Our Sixth, Inner Sense
- Pia Ceres
3 Smart Things About Animal-Inspired Robotics
2. TSA officials aren’t particularly attentive searchers. One experiment found that airport scanner operators were just 6 percent better than untrained test subjects at spotting hidden objects. Another study found that the fewer contraband items that had been discovered in a given time period, the more likely operators were to miss hidden objects. As a result, some airports have started regularly inserting images of forbidden swag onto operators’ screens.
3. Refocusing someone’s attention can have concrete physical effects. One such example: The military is using VR to help treat third-degree burns. In a study, putting patients in a virtual snowy environment was shown to have a pain-relief effect similar to that of morphine.
Adapted from How Attention Works: Finding Your Way in a World Full of Distraction , by Stefan van der Stigchel, out March 12
This article appears in the March issue. Subscribe now.
- AR will spark the next big tech platform—mirrorworld
- Before internet paranoia, there was Lyndon LaRouche
- Probe your pupper’s genetic secrets with these DNA kits
- The WIRED guide to commercial human space flight
- Finding Lena, the patron saint of JPEGs
- 👀 Looking for the latest gadgets? Check out our latest buying guides and best deals all year round
- 📩 Want more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories
(Unlike the dark, closed goggles of VR, AR glasses use see-through technology to insert virtual apparitions into the real world.) Eventually we’ll be able to search physical space as we might search a text—“find me all the places where a park bench faces sunrise along a river.” We will hyperlink objects into a network of the physical, just as the web hyperlinked words, producing marvelous benefits and new products.