Visual distractions cause memory overload
Too many visual distractions may affect our ability to concentrate, says a report published in Science (2001;291:1803-6). Excess visual input fills up working memory, the process in which information is temporarily stored in the brain. The amount of free working memory affects the level of concentration, so as the memory fills up it becomes more difficult to ignore distractions.
“Our findings suggest that, especially in an environment in which visual distraction is likely, it is crucial that mental processing resources are available for excluding potentially interfering information,” says Dr Jan de Fockert, one of the report's authors. “When working memory is occupied, our brains cannot filter out distracting visual information.”
In the study volunteers were asked to remember a sequence of numbers, while being distracted by celebrity images. The more numbers the volunteers were asked to remember, the more difficult it became to ignore the visual distractions. Functional magnetic resonance