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How Distraction Affects Memory

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Did you know that distraction can cause a reduction in the quality of your memory?

A paper by Doris Pischedda in 2018 referred to a number of studies looking at the effect of distraction on the working brain. It found that when the participants were distracted, they were unable to recall information readily, there was a loss of memory. The level of difficulty of the task they were completing when distracted also affected the ability for recall. The higher the difficulty, the lower the reliability for memory recollection.

A paper in 2016 found that individuals who perform well on memory tasks were able to suppress distractions. Those who didn’t perform as well couldn’t suppress distractions quickly enough to prevent them from grabbing their attention.

A study by Lorenc et al. (2018) provided initial insight into how distractors can alter neural representations of relevant information.

Long term memory

So in this age of constant distraction, how will this affect us in the future? There are studies looking at the effect of distraction on long term memory. However, as the levels of distraction we are seeing now are so new, long term studies are as of yet unavailable with accurate data.

According to increasing numbers of studies, it seems that having the ability to withstand distraction and then focus moving forward is becoming one of the most important qualities people will have to develop for success.

How is this related to coaching?

A study by Nelwanab Vissers and Kroesbergen looked at how coaching influenced the results of both visual and verbal working memory. It was discovered that coaching increased memory in the study participants. Other studies have shown that the ability to focus and pay attention has been correlated with the ability to retain information.

Coaching creates an ability to pay attention to the most important aspect of a situation in order for a person to continue to move towards their goal in a moment of choice. Having this ability to move towards the goal, despite what is happening in the environment can separate the good from the excellent.

The current studies demonstrate a second positive side effect from this. As well as reaching your goal, coaching may result in an increase in memory capacity as well. A win-win situation.

For a free discussion about how coaching can help you increase your memory capacity please visit HERE

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an executive, personal and career development coaching company in Hong Kong, with her partner Patrick Bennett founding the practice in New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is a Certified Professional Coach at International Coaching Federation standards. Certified Team Coach and is also degree qualified with further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.


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