The Distracted Mind

Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World
by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen | The MIT Press © 2016 · 304 pages

Adam Gazzaley, MD., Ph.D. is a leading cognitive neuroscientist. Larry Rosen is one of the world’s leading authorities on the psychology of technology. Together they give us a fascinating, scientifically rigorous look at how our ancient brains respond to a high-tech world. (Hint: They easily get distracted.) Big Ideas we explore include: goal interference, the pause, you and squirrels and foraging, metacognition, and the #1 prescription to deal with distraction.

In many ways, we are ancient brains in a high-tech world.
Adam Gazzaley & Larry D. Rosen

“This book is the first of its kind to explore the daily challenges we face with the highly engaging but extremely distracting high-tech world we now inhabit from the dual points of view of a psychologist and a neuroscientist. By providing both scientific foundations and real-world examples of people facing and addressing their own distracted minds, we share with you a unique perspective on how our increasingly information-saturated world (overflowing with pop-up windows, smartphones, texts, chat, email, social media, and video games) has coupled with the growing expectations of 24/7/365 availability and immediate responsiveness to place excessive demands on our brains. The Distracted Mind will take you on a journey into how and why we struggle with interruptions and distractions that emerge from both our inner and outer worlds, as well as offer practical strategies for changing our behavior and enhancing your brain function to alleviate interference and better accomplish your goals. It is clear that our interruptive technologies are only going to become more effective in drawing our attention away from important aspects of life, so we urgently need to understand why we are so sensitive to interference and how we can find a ‘signal amidst the noise’ in our high-tech world.”

~ Adam Gazzaley & Larry D. Rosen from The Distracted Mind

This is a fascinating, scientifically rigorous look at how our ancient brains respond to a high-tech world. Hint: They easily get distracted.

It was published by MIT and is not your typical breezy self-help read. To put it in perspective, in Part I of the book (on “Cognition and the Essence of Control”), my normal 40-50 pages per hour reading speed was reduced to a grinding 20-pages per hour as I wrapped my brain around the underlying evolutionary, neuropsychological factors at play.

Things picked up a bit with Part II: Behavior in a High-Tech World in which we take a look at the psychology of technology and its impact on our lives.

Then I was in practical-tools heaven in Part III as we explored “Taking Control”—looking at specific, scientifically proven ways to boost our control and modify our behavior. (There’s ONE huge prescriptive tip that we’ll get to in a moment. Can you guess what it is?)

Adam Gazzaley is a leading cognitive neuroscientist who is a Professor in the Departments of Neurology, Physiology, and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. His Gazzaley Lab produced a bunch of the research explored in the book. He’s also the award-winning host of the PBS special The Distracted Mind with Dr. Adam Gazzaley.

Larry Rosen is one of the world’s leading authorities on the psychology of technology. He is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, blogger for Psychology Today and author of many other books.

The book is packed (!) with Big Ideas. If you’re interested in a challenging, deeply thoughtful, scientifically grounded look at how our minds work, I think you’ll dig it. (Get a copy here.)

For now, let’s have fun exploring a handful of my favorite Big Ideas. We’ll start by quickly wrapping our brains around how our brains work then we’ll look at some practical tools.

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About the authors


Adam Gazzaley

Founder & Executive Director - Neuroscape Professor.

Larry D. Rosen

Professor of psychology. Study the Psychology of Technology.