Washington State Magazine

Winter 2011

Winter 2011

In This Issue...


When Memory Fades :: With memory notebooks and smart apartments that use motion technology to track their residents’ daily behaviors, WSU neuropsychologists are exploring ways to help patients and their families cope with age-related memory loss. Meanwhile, two scientists have discovered a means to restore neural connectivity. by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Smart Apartment Research }

Attention! :: Cell phones, Internet, car horns, children, commercials—all carry information and all work together to create in us what social scientist Herbert Simon calls “a poverty of attention.” How do you rise above the din to capture what is most important? You may be surprised to learn that one of the oldest forms of communication is still one of the best. by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Tips: How to focus your attention }

All About Everett :: The blue-collar Snohomish County city just 25 miles north of Seattle recently asked WSU to take over the University Center where graduates of its community college can go on to complete four-year degrees in a variety of disciplines, including engineering. Snohomish, Skagit, and Island counties have been underserved by the state’s four-year programs. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Map: Everett: City Snapshots }


Collegiate athletics in the 21st century :: by Thabiti Lewis


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: Sabermetrics As Told By The Simpsons }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Recipes: Unifine Flour Cookbook from Leonard Fulton’s Fairfield Milling Co. (PDF, 2.2MB) }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: Flourgirls and the WSU-Unifine connection }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: A talk with architect Jim Olson}


:: Sports: John Olerud: Faith, hope, and horses

:: In Season: Wheat: A 10,000-year relationship

:: Last Words: Are our pictures worth a thousand words? (Washington State Magazine 2012 calendar)

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Timeline: John Olerud’s baseball career }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Books and videos: Bread }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Calendar: Order your Washington State Magazine 2012 calendar }


New Media

:: The Man Who Dammed the Yangtze: A Mathematical Novel by Alex Kuo

:: Building New Pathways to Peace edited by Noriko Kawamura, Yoichiro Murakami, and Shin Chiba

:: Montaña Y Caballo by Yarn Owl - Tyler Armour ’10, Tim Meinig ’10, Ted Powers ’09, and Javier Suarez ’10

:: New & Noteworthy: Standing Above the Crowd by James “Dukes” Donaldson ’79; Eliminate the Chaos at Work by Laura Leist ’91; Pick Up Your Own Brass: Leadership the FBI Way by Kathleen McChesney ’71 and William Gavin; The Itty Bitty Guide to Trees: A Children’s Identification Guide to Trees of the Inland Northwest by Jaclyn Gotch ’07 MED, Lisa Bird, and Amy Ross-Davis; The Alpine Tales by Paul J. Willis ’80 MA, ’85 PhD

Cover photo: William Lipe, PhD, Archaeology, born 1935 — came to Washington State University in 1976. (See First Words.) By Robert Hubner

Winter 2011
Web Exclusives

Five ways to focus your attention

by Eric Sorensen | © Washington State University

If attention were a coin, it would be slipping through our fingers countless times a day. Here are a few simple tips to help you keep a grip.

Do one thing at a time. Such advice is easy to ignore when you just want to check your phone while someone is talking to you. But it’s nearly impossible to pay attention to two things at once. “Even with pretty easy tasks” says Lisa Fournier, an associate professor of psychology at Washington State University whose research focuses on selective attention, it can still be hard to successfully divide your mental faculties. And before you brag about your multitasking prowess, consider that a 2009 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found heavy multitaskers are actually more easily distracted than light multitaskers. You can test your own focus and ability to juggle tasks here.

Actively engage your world: take control and make choices. Touse TV watching as an example, you can lie on the couch and let the station you’re watching make all your viewing decisions for you. “Marketers, advertisers, people in promotion of various kinds, learn how to take advantage of that,” says WSU communications professor Erica Austin. “And they need to take advantage of that because everyone else is taking advantage of that.” But you can pick up the remote, look at the offerings and make judgments. You can turn down the sound during commercials, look at other people in the room and talk to them. If you don’t like what’s on, turn it off.

Love the one you’re with. We are social beings. So be social.“All of us see the value of turning off the electronics for periods of time and just focusing on the people around us,” says Laura Sample ’89, of the Yakima advertising firm Attention Marketing. “I hope so, anyway.”

It’s a cliché, but it’s a good cliché: Live in the moment. “What makes us different from other animals is we can project ourselves into the future or we can get caught up in morbid reflection of the past,” says Scott Creamer, a PhD student in psychology at WSU studying attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “It takes attention to live in the moment. That’s like some of the Eastern ideas of mindfulness or living in the moment. Awareness and attention, I think, are interlinked terms in a way.”

Plan your day and use reminders to keep you on track. The computer or smart phone may be a source of distractions, but web-based calendars, software, task lists, and periodic alarms can help keep you on course, or get you back on course. “That same technology that can create chaos in your life, if used with forethought, can also add structure and create more meaning in your life as well,” says Creamer.

Categories: Communication, Psychology | Tags: Self-improvement, Attention