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What Is the Connection between Attention and Performance?

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  • Written By: E. Reeder
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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There are several direct and close connections between attention and performance. People who pay close attention to the material they are supposed to learn or activity in which they are supposed to participate are more likely to succeed at their task. Success typically requires a satisfactory or above-average performance, which will not happen without diligent attention.

The connection between attention and performance can be seen in the world of academics. Students who pay attention to their studies by listening to and asking questions of their teachers during class, communicating effectively with their peers about academic matters, focusing on reading and writing assignments, and giving deliberate concentration to their tests are more likely to perform better in school. They must pay careful attention to the subject matter for which they are responsible as well as to how to apply it to perform well academically. Students who do not pay careful attention are likely to miss assignments, misunderstand directions and subject matter, and perform poorly as a result.

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Attention and performance are related in the workplace, because great attention to detail and to the overall picture is needed for optimal job performance. For example, an ad salesperson needs to pay careful attention to the multitude of details about the clients who buy ads as well as paying attention to his company’s sales goals, because this will go a long way toward increasing his rate of successful sales and performance. Paying attention on the job to all the details and being mindful of deadlines, meetings and other job responsibilities will help to ensure excellent performance. Supervisors will appreciate an employee's attention to detail and the success that comes with it.

Many other settings highlight the connection between attention and performance. For people to be safe drivers who perform well, they must pay attention to their surroundings, other vehicles and their own driving. Lack of attention while driving can lead directly to accidents and injury or death. People who are members of a sports team will likely find that paying close attention to scoring points and to what their teammates and opponents are doing will enhance their performance. People who have highly technical jobs, such as repairing cars and airplanes, may find that the vehicle they are assigned to fix will not drive or fly if they do not give careful consideration to detail, thus rendering their work unsuccessful.

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umbra21
Post 3

@irontoenail - There have been plenty of studies recently on attention at least. I remember reading one a few months ago where they had tested the ability of people to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Apparently humans simply can't do it. They just flick rapidly from one thing to another, but can't concentrate on both simultaneously.

Which is why I suspect I can't work if there's music on nearby, unless it's instrumental only. If there are words, I just can't give my full attention to the work and my performance suffers.

I guess people who can work with music going just block out the words, and use the music itself to create a screen so that they aren't bothered by the rest of the world either.

irontoenail
Post 2

@pastanaga - You might just not be a very strong aural learner. I'd actually be quite interested to know whether there have ever been any studies comparing whether people who don't learn well by listening to information are like that because their attention wanders more, or because the information just doesn't stick even though they do hear it.

I always found it helped to record the lectures and then play them back afterwards in chunks. I suppose it's going to be the norm now for people to take online courses where they could do that anyway.

pastanaga
Post 1

When I was at university the first time around, I honestly just thought I wasn't that great at study. I went to all my lectures at first, but I could never seem to pay enough attention during them to let any of the information sink in. Eventually, I just stopped going to anything except the compulsory classes and just scraped by with what I picked up from those and the readings.

It wasn't until I got into a graduate course, which was much smaller, that I realized I just couldn't pay attention in a lecture. I was a perfectly good student if I was being actively engaged, rather than just spoken at. So, for me, even though attention and performance are strongly linked, I really have to have the right conditions before I can bring my attention to bear.

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