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Pay Attention!

What is 'attention'?

"Pay attention."

Here is a phrase that anyone may pronounce several times a day.

Whether in adults or children, the subject of attention is omnipresent in our daily lives. At home, school, or leisure activities, being attentive is a command we often give to children, but what does it mean? We can indeed understand what "attention" refers to, but it is not so easy to define it and even less to explain it to our children.

I invite you to stop for a moment and pay attention to the questions that come to mind when you want to define the word attention. We immediately realise we have representations or beliefs that deserve to be verified.

Here are some responses from parents we interviewed on this topic:

  • Attention is our ability to multi-task successfully.

  • Attention is a skill, and it can be learned.

  • There is a difference between attention and concentration.

  • Attention depends solely on our will.

  • Attention is being aware of everything that is going on around you.

  • Attention is an unconscious activity that does not require effort.

  • Attention disorder is the disease of this century in children and adults because of screens.

Professor Stanislas Dehaene defines attention as "the set of mechanisms by which the brain selects information and directs its processing."

Indeed, the immediate environment is always the source of many requests (external stimuli), and our mind constantly produces associations of ideas (internal stimuli). In both cases, the stimuli can interfere with our thinking. With these influxes, attention makes it possible to eliminate irrelevant information and select those to be processed.

We can imagine it as a filter at the entrance to the brain. This makes it possible to select the valuable information for carrying out the task at hand and to eliminate the rest (ex: lyrics of music in the background, external noises, etc.) Attention, therefore, refers to our ability to concentrate on a given task despite the external environment.

Concentration is active attention directed toward an intention; it always has a purpose. Concentration, therefore, consists in focusing one's attention on a task. It requires effort and the mobilisation of working memory, while attention involves a state of effortless alertness.

Are you still here? Have you been attentive and focused on reading this Newsletter? If you have been, you surely want to know more!

Do not miss the Newsletter next month, and the workshop for your children ...

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