What is concentration?
Concentration is described as the ability to focus attention onto a task for a prolonged period of time, also called sustained attention. Hence, in order to understand concentration, the concept of attention must first be explained. After all, what is attention?
Attention can also be considered a selection mechanism for incoming information. Since your brain is simply incapable of processing all the available information, it selects specific information while avoiding being distracted by currently irrelevant information. Consequently, this selection mechanism could also be seen as your own personal assistant in order to have the ability to concentrate. In other words, this involves being able to use your attention selectively and being able to switch between different activities without losing your attention.
“Our minds are constantly bombarded with an enormous number of stimuli. Our personal assistant serves as a kind of gatekeeper, and selects which stimuli are transmitted to our consciousness… And that is focus.” – Mark Tichelaar (neuro-psychologist) in the book Focus Aan/Uit
What makes you lose concentration?
Sometimes you maintain great concentration and sometimes you lack it. Why is that? Suppose you are studying and you receive a text message about what you would like to have for dinner tonight. At that moment you partially shift your attention to the text message. Meanwhile, another part remains with the original subject you were studying. Once you decide to continue studying again, basically exactly the same thing occurs. Namely, a twofold split between studying and your dinner plans for tonight occurs. According to neuropsychologist Mark Tichelaar, distractions are triggered by the switch in your attention.
“If you immediately proceed from one task to another, a portion of your attention is retained with the previous task. As a result, you have reduced brain capacity for the new task” – Mark Tichelaar (neuro-psychologist) in the book Focus Aan/Uit
Therefore, the moment your concentration drops, it represents a shift in your attention. This may be due to the four different concentration leakages: