I was so excited when I saw this in my local bookstore, I had seen it referenced in another book and saw it popping up on various social media sites, I thought I have to purchase this little gem.
Levitin is a psychologist, so he is somewhat removed from the library and information profession, but we all love to learn. In addition, I always hear librarians speak about gaining knowledge about their profession from outside sources. It is true we do look outside the library to see what everyone else is talking about and we always try to situate ourselves among the chatter. This time, I found myself with a psychologist, not a bad thing really!
To begin with Chapter 1, Levitin does start strong he throws in historical events that will make your head spin. I really like the little taster of theory as he mentions some of my favourite theorists that I studied in Sociology and Anthropology it is really intriguing to find them noted here. What really made me sit up is his reference to survival, he is making the point of our human ancestors and how we categorised the world around us, he goes on to say;
“those who were interested in acquiring knowledge – whose brains enjoyed learning new things – would have been at an advantage for survival, and so this love of learning would eventually become encoded in their genes through natural selection” (Levitin, 2015, p. 31)
Now I hope I am not the first to go, “These were definitely librarians in the making”! The text goes on to note Clifford Geertz a very famous anthropologist, Levitin then goes on to show how Claude Levi – Strauss gives an opposing view. Without getting into too much detail the argument is, did we start to categorise in order to survive or did we do it because we wanted to make sense of the world around us, learn from it and thrive from it. Maybe we did both! A wonderful discussion to enter into, and one that I sense could go on forever.
His main aim with this first chapter is to see how we, society, have changed in today’s information age. How does the speed at which we consume information affect our minds? Levitin teaches us how our minds work with information in every form. His focus is on attention and how our minds adapt to what we need to pay attention too, or even how we make or minds pay attention, the other side of this is what distracts our attention.
In reading this I have been paying extra attention to paying attention! I am not the best when it comes to doing and completing anything unless it is a paying job that of course is different. But when it comes to me doing tasks in my daily life, like for instance reading this book and writing about it has been a difficult task. I am easily distracted, I will daydream, I will start researching aspects of the book and get side tracked, and before I know it I am still reading the same chapter for two months! So it is interesting to read about what happens to your brain as it is paying attention.
The last part of chapter one for me is the best, it sets up the next chapter for me. I want to read more! He gives wonderful examples throughout and many make you realise that this mind that is all yours is pretty awesome. Psychologists make you feel damn good!