A test of the capacity to direct attention Research aiding the process of localization
Raymond De Young
The Necker Cube Pattern Control test is designed to measure one's capacity to direct mental effort. It uses a wire-frame cube named after the Swiss crystallographer Louis Necker (1880s) who observed that cubic shapes repeatedly reverse their perceived orientation.
The Necker Cube used in this test can be seen in two different orientations. When viewed for a prolonged interval (more than a few seconds) the cube spontaneously reverses its orientation, first one of the larger squares seems closest to you and then, sometimes suddenly, the other one does.
See link to demonstration below.
THE ROLE OF DIRECTED ATTENTION
The cognitive mechanism at work in this process is called directed attention. This mental resource is used to manage our thoughts by inhibiting one response in order to say or do something else.
The capacity to direct attention is a foundational mental resource that allows us to voluntarily manage the focus of our thoughts. It is useful in our effort to remain effective, productive, clearheaded and helpful. We can use it to inhibit the power of certain features of the immediate physical and social environment, as well as internal distractions, so as to allow consideration of less salient but nonetheless valued information.
Directed attention allows for a variety of prosocial and proenvironmental behaviors. It permits us to pursue important goals despite interesting competition in the immediate setting, to help others despite our own unmet needs, and to resist temptation so that we can remain devoted to a larger concern. In short, the capacity to direct attention is an essential resource for achieving both civility and environmental stewardship.
FATIGUING THE CAPACITY TO DIRECT ATTENTION
Research indicates that directed attention is a scarce and finite mental resource. When placed under continual demand, our ability to direct the focus of our thoughts tires, resulting in a condition called directed attention fatigue (DAF). This condition reduces our overall mental effectiveness and makes consideration of abstract concepts and long-term goals difficult, at best.
SOME CONSEQUENCES OF DIRECTED ATTENTION FATIGUE
DAF causes irritability and impulsivity that results in regrettable behavior, impatience that has us making poor decisions, and distractibility that allows the immediate environment to have a greatly magnified effect on our decisions. Directed attention fatigue makes both pro-environmental and pro-social behavior much less likely.
Simply stated: Burned out people cannot help heal the planet.
Tests like the Necker Cube provide insight into the cognitive and behavioral effects that are experienced as a result of DAF. For further discussion of the capacity to direct attention, its fatigue, restoration and management, and for links to related documents, see:
NECKER CUBE DEMONSTRATION
When included in a properly designed experiment, the Necker Cube Pattern Reversal test can be used to measure our capacity to direct attention.
Click the button below to read instructions and begin the Necker Cube demonstration:
OTHER TESTS OF DIRECTED ATTENTION
Part of ongoing research on the process ofaimed at: (a) helping to plan for, motivate and maintain environmental stewardship and (b) pre-familiarizing ourselves with living well within the limits of local ecosystems. This document is part of
EPLab OnLine Measures (EPLab OLM) Necker Cube Version: 6.7