Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention

by Johann Hari

Hardcover, 2022



Call number




Bloomsbury Publishing (2022), 352 pages


Psychology. Sociology. Technology. Nonfiction. HTML:NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER � Our ability to pay attention is collapsing. From the author of Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections comes a groundbreaking examination of why this is happening�and how to get our attention back. �The book the world needs in order to win the war on distraction.��Adam Grant, author of Think Again �Read this book to save your mind.��Susan Cain, author of Quiet   WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD � ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Post, Mashable, Mindful In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for only sixty-five seconds at a time, and office workers average only three minutes. Like so many of us, Johann Hari was finding that constantly switching from device to device and tab to tab was a diminishing and depressing way to live. He tried all sorts of self-help solutions�even abandoning his phone for three months�but nothing seemed to work. So Hari went on an epic journey across the world to interview the leading experts on human attention�and he discovered that everything we think we know about this crisis is wrong.   We think our inability to focus is a personal failure to exert enough willpower over our devices. The truth is even more disturbing: our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces that have left us uniquely vulnerable to corporations determined to raid our attention for profit. Hari found that there are twelve deep causes of this crisis, from the decline of mind-wandering to rising pollution, all of which have robbed some of our attention. In Stolen Focus, he introduces readers to Silicon Valley dissidents who learned to hack human attention, and veterinarians who diagnose dogs with ADHD. He explores a favela in Rio de Janeiro where everyone lost their attention in a particularly surreal way, and an office in New Zealand that discovered a remarkable technique to restore workers� productivity.   Crucially, Hari learned how we can reclaim our focus�as individuals, and as a society�if we are determined to fight for it. Stolen Focus will transform the debate about attention and finally show us how to get it back.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member capewood
2023 Book #30. 2022. Although it says "How to" right in the cover it's not a how to book. He presents 12 reasons why you can't focus, like, not enough sleep, phones, email, and more complicated reasons which you can't fix. Kind of an interesting read but not very helpful.
LibraryThing member dirving57
One likes to read books about things which one knows reasonably well. Stolen Focus was like that for me. One likes to read books which mention important authors from one's past. Stolen Focus was like that for me. Having made a study of the psychology of attention, it was good to revisit the subject.
LibraryThing member neurodrew
The people of the world are losing their ability to pay attention, causing loss of ability to solve problems
Hari is alarmed by his own decreasing attention span, and explores many reasons why this might be so, focusing (a pun in this context) on the design of phone and computer apps. He travels and
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does interviews, talking with former app designers, biologists who believe that food additives and pollution contribute to the problem, and veers into false information on the internet and generated by governments. He argues for taking to the streets to demand action, and hews to a politically progressive agenda. I think his arguments for pollution and food additives causing attention loss are weak, and his prose seems simplistic, but the book does move along and is interesting.
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LibraryThing member ElizabethCromb
Stimulating and interesting research into why we can't focus our attention any more; how and why it has and continues to change; what we can do individually and what needs to happen in our societies to bring about major change.
LibraryThing member john.cooper
This well-researched and intelligently argued book brilliantly explains precisely what factors have led to nearly all of us losing the ability to concentrate deeply on a single topic for more than a few minutes—and not incidentally, have contributed to our society wobbling and threatening to go
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completely off the rails. The good news is that I think we can conclusively say what the causes are (and their primary origins in the period from 2005 to 2007). The bad news is that we're not going to be able to fix the problem through individual regimens akin to weight-loss programs, such as periodic unplugging from social media. Fixing this will take broad, regulated, collective effort, probably by government. The author is hopeful; I'm not. I recommend this book to anyone concerned about our seemingly dystopian present, but as a starting point to a necessary conversation, not as a blueprint of solutions.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
There's a lot to process here, but a major take away point is the combined damage of technology dependency, lack of sleep & good nutrition, and almost nonexistent freedom during childhood that is leading us down a dangerous path. We are becoming so stressed that our default mode is to zone out even
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further. If we don't make drastic changes, then it will only get worse.

“You don’t get what you don’t fight for.”

“In situations of low stress and safety, mind-wandering will be a gift, a pleasure, a creative force. In situations of high stress or danger, mind-wandering will be a torment.”

“She believed she had uncovered a key truth about focus: To pay attention in normal ways, you need to feel safe.”

“If you see the world through fragments, your empathy often doesn’t kick in, in the way that it does when you engage with something in a sustained, focused way.”

“We live in a culture that is constantly amping us up with stress and stimulation.”
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Original language


Physical description

352 p.; 7.99 x 1.85 inches


1526620227 / 9781526620224
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