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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 232

Amishi Jha on the Neuroscience of Attention

Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day (book cover)

Research shows we are missing 50 percent of our lives because we aren’t paying attention. From the constant buzz of your phone and the lure of your media feed to your unrelenting, all-encompassing, and ever-growing mental to-do list — the demands on your attention have never been so severe. The result is an escalating crisis, where we feel mentally foggy, scattered, and overwhelmed. Remarkably, the solution to our attention crisis has been right here in front of us.

In this conversation with the acclaimed neuroscientist Amishi Jha, she shows why whether you’re simply browsing, talking to friends, or trying to stay focused in an important meeting, you can’t seem to manage to hang on to your attention. Why is it that no matter how hard you try, you seem to find yourself somewhere else — if you’re even aware you’ve drifted off to that place. Dr. Jha recounts her neuroscience research revealing that, in fact, there’s nothing wrong with you — your brain isn’t broken. The human brain evolved to be distractible. And there’s even better news: You can train your brain to pay attention more effectively.

Dr. Amishi P. Jha is professor of psychology at the University of Miami. She serves as the Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, which she co-founded in 2010. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California–Davis and postdoctoral training at the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University. Dr. Jha’s work has been featured at NATO, the World Economic Forum, and The Pentagon. She has received coverage for the New York Times, NPR, TIME, Forbes and more. Watch her TED Talk on “How to Tame Your Wandering Mind” with 5 million+ views.

Shermer and Jha discuss:

  • her personal experiences that led her to study the neuroscience of attention,
  • how the mind works: from basic rationality to mind reading (theory of mind) to mental travel,
  • what attention evolved to do,
  • how attention is powerful, fragile, and trainable,
  • how attention is diverted: depleted attention, hijacked attention, fragmented attention, disconnected attention,
  • gorilla inattentional blindness,
  • police and military: distorted attention bias,
  • stress and attention,
  • negativity bias and attention,
  • thought flooding and attention,
  • active listening and attention,
  • multitasking,
  • the attention economy: from legacy media to social media,
  • new neuroscience research on how to train attention,
  • how to find your focus through the “flashlight” metaphor of attention,
  • how to live in the “now” without neglecting the past and the future,
  • how biased thinking affects attention and clarity,
  • meta-awareness: how to pay attention to your attention,
  • exercises in how to improve your attention and achieve peak mind, and
  • mindfulness and well-being.

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on Dec 04, 2021.

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Retrospective

Skeptic cover art by Pat Linse

Art of the Skeptic

In celebration of Skeptic magazine’s 100th issue, we present sage graphic art advice for skeptical groups and a gallery of art reflecting more than 47 years of skeptical activism from Skeptic’s long time Art Director, Pat Linse

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

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Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

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Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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