Motivation can act as the best defence against distractions that arise while performing activities that are both difficult as well as easy, finds a new study.
In the study, the researchers from the University of Illinois, have challenged the popular notion that people become more distractible as they tackle increasingly difficult tasks.
‘The ability to avoid being distracted is not driven primarily by the difficulty of the task, but is likely the result of an individual's level of engagement with the endeavour.’
On the contrary, they found that it is the simpler tasks that causes individuals to become distracted more easily. Those who get engaged in an easy tasks were more likely to have distractions than those engaged in an extremely challenging tasks.
Further, the more complex the activity, the more attention you have to give to the task at hand, and the less time you have for outside distractions, the study stated.
"This suggests that focus on complex mental tasks reduces a person's sensitivity to events in the world that are not related to those tasks," said Simona Buetti, Professor at University of Illinois.
"When the need for inner focus is high, we may have the impression that we momentarily disengage from the world entirely in order to achieve a heightened degree of mental focus," Buetti added.
This finding corroborates a phenomenon called "inattentional blindness", in which people involved in an engaging task often fail to notice strange and unexpected events.
The bigger the task, the less likely they are to notice their surroundings, the researchers observed. For the study, the team tracked eye movements of volunteers as they solved math problems of various difficulty while looking at neutral photographs.
The results showed that the more difficult the math problem, the more likely the volunteers' eyes were to wander.
The ability to avoid being distracted is not driven primarily by the difficulty of the task, but is likely the result of an individual's level of engagement with the endeavour, the researchers concluded.