Review: Paying Attention or Fatally Distracted

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By Gerry Hess from Gonzaga University School of Law

M.H. Sam Jacobson, Paying Attention or Fatally Distracted: Concentration, Memory, and Multi-Tasking in a Multi-Media World, 16 Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 419 (2010) [Read fulltext at LWI website (450 KB PDF)]

Do you think your students should refrain from multi-tasking during your course? Does your attention waver at times you wish you were able to fully concentrate? Would you like to understand the effects of multi-tasking and scattered attention on the complex cognitive tasks our students face in law school and we face in our jobs as teachers and scholars?

If the answers to those questions are “yes,” this article is for you. Based on an in-depth review of the literature on learning and cognition, Professor Jacobson explains the critical role of attention in learning, especially the higher-order cognitive tasks required in legal analysis and reasoning. Then Professor Jacobson explores four factors that affect attention: distractions, multi-tasking, stress, and fatigue. The final part of the article offers practical advice to students (and their teachers) to address each of the factors that limit attention.

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