Be careful what you notice…

As humans, we are prone to selective attention where we look for patterns to reinforce what we see by giving excessive importance to unremarkable events that seem like they follow a sequence. What we tend to not notice are the hundreds and thousands of bits of information that are not repeated because they do not create an interesting pattern.

Together with selective attention, we also demonstrate confirmation bias where we give even further importance to each bit of information proving that there is something extraordinary about what we have decided to notice.

So what does all this mean in everyday life for you, me, everyone?

Your brain is great at pattern recognition, it helps you learn. This means you will be looking for patterns to reinforce what you want to notice and so give it importance.

There is so much information being pushed at you all the time via advertising, news feeds, social media posts, radio, magazines to name just a few. Often these bits of information are biased to encourage you to notice patterns that those pushing the information want you to notice, and  selected to make you feel either fearful or inadequate unless you do something different or buy something.

The under-used benefit of selective attention and confirmation bias is that you can choose what you look for so:

  • Take a moment to notice what you have to be grateful for, such as friends, life, health, being literate (reading and understanding this article for instance). Unless you look for these, you may stay unaware.
  • Notice the colours, the smiles, the flowers, the birdsong, it’s around us all and you still fail to notice it – unless you choose to.
  • In your business world, you can choose to notice the challenges and the day-to-day difficulties. Or you can choose to notice what is going well and do more of that, and notice the opportunities and actually take advantage of these.

Remember, all your friends, family and customers also notice things, so how will you help them think carefully about what they notice or, as you are more aware now, can choose to notice?

Have a look at this video and see what you notice!

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