is the diversion of attention
of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction is caused by one of the following: lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; greater interest in something other than the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources (physical stimuli through the five senses), or internal sources (thought
, physical urges). Divided attention, as in multi-tasking
could also be considered as distraction in situations requiring full attention on a single object (e.g., sports, academic tests, performance).
Distraction is a major cause of procrastination, though it is possible to be diligent and still diverted from what is valuable. According to philosopher Damon Young, distraction is chiefly an inability to identify, attend to or attain what is valuable, even when we are hard working or content.
Distraction by media
The media (television, reading, video games), can be a great source of distraction.
In many cases, media is viewed as more entertaining than the object of attention. The brightly colored images and appealing sounds also divert attention. The case of Shawn Woolley was a very extreme case; he became particularly involved in the computer game Everquest and quit his job to dedicate up to 12 hours a day playing the game.
Distraction in wildlife, warfare, medicine and crime
- Fake targets:
- In open field with mass military strategy, sometimes a contingent of troops is used to distract the enemy army so their flank is exposed, or to draw them away from a key point or fortification, such as a city.
- Flares can be used to divert the enemy soldiers' gaze
- Distraction is useful in the management of pain and anxiety. Dentists, for example may intentionally hum an annoying tune or engage in small talk just to distract a patient's attention away from the dental drill. Doctors may prescribe topical ointments containing capsaicin, which produces a superficial burning sensation that can temporarily distract a patient's attention away from the deeper pain of arthritis or muscle strain.
- Pickpockets and other thieves, especially those working in teams, sometimes apply distraction, such as asking a question, bumping into the victim, or deliberately dirtying the victim's clothing and then "helping" him/her to clean it.
- Animals with fake eyes on their back distract their predators with the fake eyes.
- Physical distraction may occur or be applied through various forces like gravity or magnetism. For example, electromagnetic energy from a cathode ray tube (which composes a television screen) can cause distraction.