A recent article in BBC online, written by neuroscientist Bobby Azarian, was titled “How Anxiety Warps Your Perception.” The main points of this article are summarized below.
Azarian writes that “we all know that anxiety affects our emotional state and makes interacting with the world difficult, but what may be less obvious is how it changes what we focus our attention on throughout the day. Anxiety’s effects on attention may shape worldviews and belief systems in specific and predictable ways. It can even affect our politics without us knowing.”
Azarian discusses how we humans have what is like a spotlight for our attention. He calls it an attentional spotlight. With vision, what we focus on is clear while objects around are hazy. Any movement in the hazy area will immediately draw our attention and the spotlight of clear vision will move as we focus in on it. He says that we also have emotional attentional spotlight. We naturally look out for danger but what if we focused on it all the time? How might that impact our perceptions?
Azarian references several different studies which indicate that where we focus our attention can impact things as significant as our political and religious views. Anxiety may actually distort or warp how we decide which candidate to support or which philosophy to believe.
He ends by saying, “Through exercises that work to dissolve anxiety-driven attentional biases for threat, and by becoming self-aware of the way that anxiety influences our attentional spotlight, we can help prevent it from distorting reality, instilling fear, and altering belief systems.”
If you’d like to read the article in full you can find it here.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Azarian? Please leave your comments below.
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