Summary of The Distracted Mind

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  • Scientific
  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening


Everyone knows multitasking disrupts how well their mind works…and almost everyone multitasks anyway. That’s the irony of this book. Professors Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen have synthesized their academic work with a range of other research to document just how distracted modern society has become. They explain the aspects of the brain and mind that shape your cognitive capacity, the evolutionary roots of distraction, and the damage done by multitasking and task switching. They cover how distraction harms health, workplace performance, social relationships and physical safety. And they provide a number of techniques to help you gain control of disruptions. getAbstract recommends their work to those interested in improving their performance, safety, relationships or health, or in learning how technology affects society. However, due to the nature of distraction, and people’s relationship to their technology, many probably won’t apply the…wait, what were you saying? Just a sec, I have a text.

About the Authors

Adam Gazzaley is a professor in the Department of Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Larry D. Rosen is professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.




Your brain does an incredible job of processing information. The human brain created everything from symphonies to the theory of relativity. And yet you still forget to stop by the grocery store on the way home from work. How do these two aspects of the brain co-exist? You miss some details because of “interference” – specifically, “goal interference.” Interference comes from internal sources, such as when something preoccupies you, or external sources, like environmental stimuli. Goal interference happens when something gets in the way of your pursuit of a specific goal. It takes two forms: “distractions,” when your mind wanders, and “interruptions,” when you shift your attention from one goal to another. While all complex systems suffer interference, some disruptions are specific to the human brain. You are born with limited “cognitive control.” Putting too many demands on that control generates interference.

The world generates interference, but the “digital revolution” makes things worse. As digital devices get smaller, people carry them more often. Approximately 95% of people report doing some “media multitasking” daily. People now expect responses...

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    D. C. 2 years ago
    This has no mention of task focus as a type of informational foraging behaviour. This also fails to mention anything about bottom up vs. top down interrupts. The primary insights of the books are missing. The core takeaways are weak and somewhat redundant. This is a summary one could use to fake having read the book, not a summary one could use to actually efficiently access insights. This summary is so poor it makes entire site's content very questionable.
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      Erica Rauzin 2 years ago
      While noting that all the other comments about this summary are favorable, thank you for your analysis. At getAbstract, we always have the challenge with really good books, like this one, of deciding what we are able to include in a summary and what we must omit. We discovered long ago that wise minds will differ on that question. We invite you to sample our other abstracts on cognitive science and hope you will come to see the value of our abstracts and the care we take in reporting, writing and editing them - Erica Meyer Rauzin, Senior Managing Editor, getAbstract
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    A. S. 3 years ago
    Nice read, which makes you feel bad about your habit :(
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    S. R. 4 years ago
    This is excellent. It fairly contradicts the quest we are all in today - learning skills to multitask
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    K. S. 4 years ago
    This is brilliant, fantastic read.
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    R. H. 4 years ago
    Great information!