You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up in a blog about babies.
If you are a Secrets reader, you are interested in understanding more about your baby’s behavior. You might be thinking that knowing more about your little one will help you feel less stressed. But knowing a little more about yourself might be more helpful. You may not be thinking of the ever-present need for divided attention as a source of stress but it is known to be so stressful, scientists use situations that require divided attention to induce stress for experimental purposes.
Here are some of the documented effects of divided attention:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Perception that common tasks are more difficult to accomplish
- Mood changes
- Interference with the ability to remember things, including future tasks
- Interference with retrieval of memories and reduced accuracy of those memories
What do these effects mean in the real world?Let’s say you’re late for work because the kids haven’t been very cooperative. The baby might be getting a cold and your preschooler had a tantrum when you told him that he can’t wear his Halloween costume. You have a meeting in the early afternoon and co-workers have been texting you about it since you first woke up. You had planned to run errands on the way home from work and your spouse asks you to make another stop at a gardening shop that you normally like to visit. You’re almost out the door when you realize you can’t find your car keys. You get a call from your boss just as your preschooler disappears into his room. What happens next?
- Your breathing gets a little faster and you feel overwhelmed and even a little sick
- Anything your boss asks about seems out of line
- You resent your spouse for asking you to run his or her errands when you already have too many of your own (even though you can’t seem to remember what those errands are)
- You feel overly frustrated with your preschooler for going back into his room. After all, he “should know” you need to leave
- You are certain that you left your keys on the counter and can’t imagine any other place that they can be (even though you put them on the hall table without thinking earlier in the morning)
- Nebel, K et al. On the neural basis of focused and divided attention. Cognitive Brain Res 2005; 5: 760-776.
- Petrac DC et al. Differential relationship of recent self-reported stress and acute anxiety with divided attention performance. Stress 2009; 12: 313-319.
- Wetherell MA and Carter K. The multitasking framework: The effects of increasing workload on acute psychobiological stress reactivity. Stress Health 2013; epub, ahead of print.
Post a Comment