Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Urban life 'reduces concentration'

Living in cities or towns can reduce people's ability to concentrate on tasks, research suggests

Living in cities or towns can reduce people's ability to concentrate on tasks, research suggests.

People who live in remote areas can pay attention to the task in hand better than those living in towns or cities, researchers said.

Researchers, from Goldsmiths University of London, examined a remote Namibian tribe and found that those who had not moved to an urban environment were more able to concentrate in cognitive tests.

Lead author Dr Karina Linnell, from the University's Department of Psychology, said people living in an urbanised environment were not functioning at their optimum level of engagement.

"Attentional engagement has a big impact on our ability to conduct tasks to the highest standard," she said. "What if, for example, companies realised certain tasks would be better carried out by employees based outside of the urban environment where their concentration ability is better?"

The authors studied a remote cattle-herding tribe in north-west Namibia. The team compared traditional tribe members with "urbanised" tribe members - those who had moved to a nearby town - and urbanised British.

Each of the participants were required to examine a target and ignore peripheral information. For example, people were shown an image with a face in the middle and asked to signal which way it was facing, while ignoring related faces appearing in the periphery of the image.

Members of the Himba tribe living remotely could better focus their attention to the task that urbanised tribe members and British participants living in London.

Dr Linnell added: "While for this research we focused on the Himba to ensure a suitable control group, the findings do have wider implications.

"This research suggests a trend that people who live in less urbanised areas of the UK, such as the Shetlands, may be in a better cognitive state to concentrate on tasks then those who live in large cities."

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