Attention

Lens: Type: Bifocals
Attention:

Concentration on the activity at hand.

Photo: elijah_tmn
man reading a newspaper

People don’t always pay full attention to the task at hand. Some activities require a person’s full attention, while others can be completed while “multitasking” because they require minimal effort. Depending on the setting, people may be distracted while completing certain activities. A parent who is driving a car with a screaming child in the back seat may not be able to pay full attention to the traffic around them. A welder wearing ear protection and eye protection may be very focused on their work because they understand the severe consequences of making a mistake while welding and also because their senses have been reduced, removing some distractions. Both internal thoughts and external stimuli can impact how much attention a person can pay to their activities. Sometimes, designers can help improve focus by reducing distractions or simplifying designed interfaces. When designing products, services, and systems, consider how much attention a person may be able to give when completing an activity.

Researching Attention

Studying people’s attention level within an experience design scene shows what capacity a person may have for completing an activity. This research can reveal at what level a person can focus in a specified setting. A person who devotes their full attention to an activity is more likely to complete it well.

Questions to Ask About Attention

  • What could cause a person to be distracted when they use the design outcome?
  • What degree of attention can the person pay to the activity?
  • What is the person’s attention span?
  • How long can their attention be held?

Look for These When Researching Attention

  • Full eye contact devoted to the activity
  • External distractions, including people or sensory outputs like noise or cold
  • How many times people stop the activity to do something else, then start again

Sources

References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.

Social Sciences

Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211. doi:10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T

Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (2017). Social cognition: from brains to culture. (3rd ed.). London: SAGE.

Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., . . . Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345(6192), 75. doi:10.1126/science.1250830