Attention Residue

DeepWork Comments

In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport talks about the concept of Attention Residue. When we switch from Task A to Task B, the attention usually doesn’t immediately follow, a residue of our attention remains stuck thinking about Task A. The concept of Attention Residue was first introduced by Sophie Leroy in her research paper Why is it so hard to do my work.

Attention Residue

Based on her research, Sophie claimed that the residue is thicker if our work on Task A, before switching to Task B, is unbounded, low intensity (binge watching or mindless Internet browsing) and incomplete. Our intensity of focus on Task B reduces as the attention residue thickens and thus a lower quality of work.

Quality of work = (Intensity of focus * Time Spent)

In order to verify her theory, she conducted an experiment. She invited 2 groups of students to the lab and asked them to perform a couple of tasks - a word puzzle followed by resume screening. The first group was allowed to complete the word puzzle whereas the second group were asked to switch to resume screening half-way through the puzzle. When she measured the performance of these students on the second task - the results were clear. The group of students who were allowed to complete the puzzle had a lower attention residue and thus performed better compared to the other group.

Source - Deep Work by Cal Newport

Kaushik Rangadurai

Code. Learn. Explore

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