Edward Hallowell on ADD or Modern Life – which is it?

The feeling of being connected to something is the “single most important precursor to happiness and health.”

So said Edward Hallowell in his November Learning & the Brain talk, Crazy Busy. He went on to draw lines between our need for connecting and our using modern technology to facilitate that connecting. While we may, indeed, be chatting more, he noted that our face-to-face time and the quality of our connections are likely suffering because the technology lets us “live at a distance” while encouraging brief communiqués, thus fostering a “breadth over depth” mentality.

The result is lots of quick interactions that take place via texting, emails, and social networking tools. (Curiously, he did not mention video chatting and its potential benefits, which I think provides ample opportunity for long conversations while seeing who you are talking with. We had hour long conversations with our son when he lived in Japan and, more recently, in Olympia, WA., and always ended with a virtual family hug. 🙂 )

Hallowell made the case that the fast-paced use of technology for connecting with others leads to people who are busy and have shorter attention spans, which causes them to make impulsive decisions. This approach of paying “continuous partial attention” to many inputs creates behavior that mimics ADD: impulsivity, hyperactivity, and decreased attention spans. This begs the question: “Is it ADD or a severe case of modern life?”  The answer: “Take the Vermont Test” – “environmentally induced” behavior is a severe case of modern life; genetically influenced behavior is a case of ADD.

Next post: Hallowell’s prescription, and the UP side of ADD


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