Selective attention is the ability to direct our attention and focus on something without allowing other stimuli to interrupt our task. First, we analyze the numerous and complex information that our senses receive and then we process and respond only to those things that are really important to us. This allows us to leave certain things aside to effectively treat others.
The things that we do not pay attention to may seem to be lost, but they aren’t. The relevant message passes through the filter and the rest is attenuated so as not to overload us. However, the irrelevant messages also receive some kind of analysis, that is why if we detect something outstanding, for example if we hear our name, our attention is diverted to that channel.
In the world of Escape Rooms, we can find many examples of how this selective attention manifests when we play.
What happens when we are desperately looking for something that we know we need to move forward and suddenly we find another thing that draws our attention, such as a detail that the Game Master mentioned when explaining the mission? We still know that we urgently need that, but we turn to that detail instead.
And when we enter a dark room and at the other end there is another room with light? What do we do? Well, in the majority of cases, we completely ignore the dark room and go straight to the light. Why? Because our cognitive capacity has a mechanism that prioritizes that luminous stimulus, although at that moment it is focused on following the steps of the game in a certain logical order.
Have you ever wondered why when really we want something, for example, open the first padlock we found when entering the room, we forget everything else? We must open it so we might start trying random combinations out of everything in the room and being unsuccessful. And, suddenly, we find a clue that tells us that we have to do a mathematical operation between two numbers to open that happy lock. Well, when finding any of the two numbers, we go directly to put it in the lock that we have as a preference, even without having yet found the other number that we know we need. The answer is how our brain acts in these situations and makes you just look at the stimuli according to your scheme, and avoid including the information that at that time you take as unnecessary, as would be a second number to get the result.
Or when we start looking at some important object, for example, a table, and a teammate says our name? We automatically go to answer the call for help and leave the table for later, even if we were close to finding a fundamental clue. Thankfully, when we focus again, we know that we have to keep gathering information on that table.
In our day to day, selective attention is very important, since it helps us to improve our cognitive performance and to minimize fatigue. It is also to improve our experiences, when we filter positive information and discard other that could negatively affect us.
As children, we learn to focus on some stimuli ignoring others of less importance. For example, we may be able to easily remember a conversation that we have maintained, but we are not able to remember other aspects, say, secondary: the place, the clothes of our interlocutor, if it was cold or hot …
Imagine what it would be like to drive or walk down the street if we could not ignore the irrelevant stimuli and focus our attention on what is important!
As a conclusion, we can synthesize all the above in a tip to improve our performance in the tough challenges that we find along the routes of escapism. When entering a new room, first of all, it is a priority to do a general reconnaissance of the room and once when we have done it, then focus on investigating all the details rigorously and thoroughly.