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This is how long our attention lasts

Human perception pulses in and out four times per second. Perception doesn't flicker on and off, but every 250 milliseconds it cycles between periods of maximum focus and periods of a broader situational awareness.


A team of researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley who studied monkeys and humans have discovered that attention pulses in and out four times per second. Brain rhythms have been known for almost a century, since electroencephalograms better known as EEGs were invented in 1924.


According to one of the researchers, they can now link brain rhythms for the first time to behavior, on a moment-to-moment basis. This pulsing attention must present an evolutionary advantage, the researchers suggest, perhaps because focusing too intently on one subject could allow a threat to catch us by surprise. This seems to be an elegant way to allocate brain resources -- to sample the environment and not have any lapses.