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Ignorance is bliss, indeed

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Washington: Escaping something that doesn’t matter can actually be helpful as according to a recent study, mastering the art of ignoring makes people more efficient.

People searching for something can find it faster if they know what to look for, but Johns Hopkins University research suggests knowing what not to look for can be just as helpful.

Although previous studies concluded that attempting to ignore irrelevant information slows people down, the new study found that when people are given time to learn what’s possible to ignore, they’re able to search faster and more efficiently.

Lead author Corbin A. Cunningham said that individuals who explicitly ignore distracting information improve their visual search performance, a critical skill for professional searchers, like radiologists and airport baggage screeners. This work has the potential to help occupations that rely on visual search by informing future training programs.

Although trying to disregard distractions might initially slow people down, the researchers concluded that over time, people are more efficient when they know what’s not worth paying attention to.

“Attention is usually thought of as something that enhances the processing of important objects in the world,” said co-author Howard Egeth, adding that this study, along with some recent work, in which they measured brain activity while subjects responded selectively to stimuli presented in the midst of competing stimuli, highlights the importance of active suppression of those competing stimuli. “It’s what I think of as the dark side of attention.”

The results appear online in the journal Psychological Science. (ANI)

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