Absent-mindedness is an organic or functional decline in the ability to perform focused, purposeful activities. In a narrow sense, distraction is understood as a violation of concentration. It manifests itself as forgetfulness, inattention, and lack of attention. It can be a character trait, a symptom of an illness, or a temporary state of fatigue. Diagnosis of absent-mindedness is carried out by methods of pathopsychology: samples are used to study the attentive-mnestic sphere, performance. In the context of symptomatic treatment, psychocorrection, biofeedback training, and medications (nootropics, antidepressants) are prescribed.
The basis of absent-mindedness is a violation of the ability to concentrate on certain actions or objects. Normally, attention provides the direction and focus of mental activity. These properties are understood as the ability of a person to go deeper into the activity, to distract from extraneous signals. The opposite state of concentration is absent-mindedness – the inability to maintain concentration on the chosen object: on the topic of conversation, physical or mental work.
According to the mechanism of attention disorders, there are several types of absent-mindedness. The true one can be felt as drowsiness or dullness, manifested by unclear and vague perception, a decrease in intellectual functions, an aimless fixation of the gaze into the void. Imaginary distraction occurs when intense concentration on one object, the inability to distribute attention to others. For example, a scientist who is constantly thinking about a new theory looks distracted.
The student’s form of distraction is caused by excessive switching and mobility of thought processes. This disorder is typical for children, it is not associated with a lack of concentration, but with the inability to hold it for a long time. The causes of senile forgetfulness are poor switchability, insufficient concentration. Therefore, in a conversation, older people sometimes “get stuck” on one topic: they do not develop it, talk for a long time about insignificant details, and cannot quickly start a conversation about another.
Directed, selective, and motivational inattention are considered as types of absent-mindedness. When a person deliberately ignores certain thoughts, memories, sensations, it is a directed inattention. So, a woman who has recently experienced a divorce may seem distracted when discussing the reason for the separation. Habitual inattention-ignoring the daily repetitive signals: the ticking of the clock, the barking of dogs, snoring. The concept of motivational-conditioned inattention is introduced by Z. Freud. It implies forgetfulness when visiting certain places, accidentally meeting some people.
Causes of absent-mindedness
Subjectively, distraction is experienced as a state of vagueness and vagueness of consciousness, insufficient mobility of the thought process, inexplicable forgetfulness. The emotional-volitional component is represented by the instability of interest, indifference, lack of tension of effort, passivity. The causes of absent-mindedness are diverse – a state of fatigue, monotony, physical malaise, some diseases.
Most people are not constantly distracted, but only at certain times-after an illness, at the end of the working day, when experiencing adverse life events. Their forgetfulness, incompleteness are caused by physiological factors, which are based on the depletion of the body’s resources, natural fluctuations in the hormonal background. The restoration of the former mindfulness and efficiency occurs immediately after the elimination of the cause. The physiological basis of absent-mindedness can be:
Lack of sleep. Lack of sleep due to insomnia or external causes is the most common cause of inattention. Lack of sleep negatively affects the work of the brain, provokes a slowdown in all processes-attention, memory, thinking, emotional and volitional acts. A person who has not had enough sleep is absent-minded, inhibited, and performs worse than usual tasks.
Fatigue. Activity, purposefulness of intellectual activity naturally decreases after a period of stress. Fatigue is essentially exhaustion. Distraction, forgetfulness appear as a result of long work without breaks for rest.
Monotonous work. Monotony is a negative mental state, the cause of which is monotonous activity and the lack of breaks for rest. It is characterized by a decrease in the speed of mental processes, a deterioration in the ability to switch attention. Develops long before true fatigue.
Pregnancy, menopause. Periods of gestation and menopause are accompanied by hormonal imbalances. Excess or lack of hormones leads to changes in the functioning of the brain. This affects the emotional sphere, working capacity: women become impressionable, irritable, forgetful.
The period after the disease. Severe diseases deplete the body, remove a person from the usual social environment. Therefore, after an acute period, it takes some time to recover, adapt to a normal daily routine and exercise. Distraction and forgetfulness usually disappear within 1-2 weeks, and a return to the previous level of activity indicates a complete recovery.
Intoxication. The state of intoxication (intoxication) develops as a result of taking alcohol, drugs. The psychoactive effect of substances is manifested by distraction, slowing down the reaction, and impaired coordination of movements. A slight decrease in concentration in combination with an increased mood is observed at the initial stage of intoxication. As intoxication increases, speech disorders are formed, and orientation in space is lost.
Psychological factors of absent-mindedness
Sometimes distraction is the result of a person’s attitude to the activity performed, the surrounding objects. In interesting, personally important situations, people become collected, in insignificant, unpleasant situations – on the contrary. The inability to concentrate and hold attention is associated with emotional and volitional qualities, personal hobbies and preferences, and general rules of the functioning of the psyche. Common psychological causes of absent-mindedness:
Passion for one object. The condition is typical for people who are strongly attracted to an object – another person, scientific developments, an interesting hobby. Their attention is narrowed, not distributed to other situations and people, so when trying to distract there is confusion. Examples of such people are scientists engaged in new research, artists in periods of creative upsurge.
Intense distractions. Concentration and stability are functions of arbitrary attention. When there are a lot of extraneous intense stimuli in the situation – noise, bright lights, voices-an involuntary switch occurs. Attention becomes scattered between many objects. Therefore, for example, many people find it difficult to read a book while traveling on public transport.
Limited RAM. According to experimental psychological studies, people are able to simultaneously hold from 5 to 9 objects in consciousness (the exact number is individual). When there is more information, forgetfulness appears, because the least significant stimuli no longer attract attention.
Unwillingness to perform an activity. The condition is noted when performing tasks that are perceived as uninteresting, seem meaningless, or cause personal hostility. In such cases, a person has to make great volitional efforts to organize their own purposeful activity.
Features of the character. Sometimes there is no special reason for forgetfulness and lack of attention, these qualities are part of the character. People are described as dreamy, peculiar, creative, and sometimes infantile. Often this is based on a lack of need or experience of purposeful organized activities.