Adult Learner

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Attention is the ability to focus on a specific task without being distracted. Attention helps us learn and succeed because we perform best when we focus on and thoughtfully practice our developing skills. ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is mulit-faceted and often presents with differential patterns of attentional control. These behaviors can manifest differently for different individuals and although rates of ADHD tend to decline in adulthood, many adults with ADHD still experience difficulties with attentional control.

Main Ideas

Attention is often defined by the type of stimuli being focused on and how it is processed. While visual Attention refers to focusing on information you see, auditory Attention refers to focusing on information you hear. In addition, there are different sub-types of visual and auditory Attention, which decline at different rates over the lifespan. Individuals may show stronger or weaker abilities among different types of Attention:

  • Sustained Attention, the ability to maintain focus, is important for adults as it directly impacts job performance and participation in everyday tasks. Sustained attention abilities are typically maintained in middle-aged adults.
  • Selective Attention is being able to select and focus on relevant information, both visual and auditory, while filtering out other distracting information and may be a key factor underlying efficient reading. Many components of selective attention tend to decline during adulthood.
  • Alternating Attention allows a learner to switch focus between tasks and is essential for Cognitive Flexibility.
  • Divided Attention, or multitasking, refers to attending to multiple tasks at once, and typically becomes more challenging with age in adulthood.

Attending to two or more media activities at once, or media multitasking, is becoming more common with the increase in technology, and may contribute to poorer Attention and higher distractibility.

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