Minding Our Minds   /   Summer 2014   /    Minding Our Minds

Minding Our Minds

A Bibliographical Essay

Jay Tolson

Corps by emeraldschell; flickr

Recent titles on the topic of attention and the mind in the modern age.

Concerns about attention appear to be very much on our minds these days, with many Americans, mostly of the older generations, fearing that it is under siege and possibly approaching a state of catastrophic overload. Even if we are not certain what attention is, at least in any strict scientific sense, we think we have some pretty good ideas about what is driving our minds to distraction. Such factors include ever-rising expectations of individual performance in a fast-moving, highly competitive commercial culture that both cultivates and caters to the citizen-consumer, in large part through increasingly sophisticated electronic media that seem to penetrate every part of our lives.

Articles and books abound about the distractions of everyday modern life, many accompanied by suggestions (from mindfulness meditation to “quiet cars” on trains to apps that limit online activity) for how we might tune out or turn off some of their most powerful disruptive effects. The growing incidence of Americans diagnosed with a condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—ADHD, though still known to most people as ADD—has become not only an alarming medical phenomenon, with more and more adults appearing to join children and adolescents among the ranks of the medicated, but also a kind of metaphor for the plight of all people living in our performance-oriented, media-saturated, multitasking world.

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