Restorative Attention

Posted by Neil Patel on Feb 10, 2016
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In an email thread today, I was reminded of this beautiful essay ...
Mayan temples, along with the aqueducts and reservoirs of the Mayan golden age, are wonderful feats of technology. They are a testament to the human capacity to make great things. They are also, equally, a testament to the availability of trees. To heat one square meter of the limestone plaster used to make these temples, the Mayans needed to burn 20 trees.

Today we live in a golden age of software. As the Mayan temples were fueled by trees, our software is fueled by another natural resource: attention.

I remember reading, a few years back, a wonderful book by the psychologists Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, in which they developed a theory they called Attention Restoration Theory. In this book, they introduced something they called soft fascination. As opposed to hard fascination, which refers to patterns that grab our attention — a billboard in Times Square, an incoming text message, an iPad game — soft fascination refers to patterns that readily hold the attention, but in a serene way that permits a more reflective mode — a butterfly on a wildflower, the song of a nightingale, the movement of leaves on a tree. Soft fascination, they showed, is a powerful restorative measure for attention.

This suggests a path for us as makers of space.

It suggests a path for makers because, while it’s always possible for people to make individual choices, the default choices are most powerful.
 

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