[MUSIC] So we've been talking about all these ways that we get happiness wrong, and we saw two ways so far. One is we're bad at effectively forecasting, and the second is that we're really susceptible to social comparison. Now, we're going to talk about a final reason that we sometimes get happiness wrong, and that has to do with constraints on our attention. We don't notice all the stuff that we don't notice. It turns out when you're out in the world, let's say, you all are here studying on Yale's campus this summer, you're out in the world, you think you're noticing everything. If you saw a complicated scene like this, you might think you're noticing all the people and all the things. But what science shows us is that our attention is much more limited than we think. So, even though our eyes might be pointing at this scene and our eyes are pointed to everything, our attention is only taking in a certain amount of stuff. We're really limited in the kinds of things we notice that we can bring into our consciousness. And this is the problem of attention, which we're going to define as the whole set of processes in our brain that allow us to consciously focus on one particular bit of information out there at the expense of everything else. The way researchers think of attention is kind of like a spotlight, it's like a spotlight of this whole scene out there that we're looking at. We only pay attention to one thing. And we think of attention, what we know about how it works is that there's kind of two pathways that information can get into our attentional system, there's kind of two kinds of attention. One is what researchers call bottom-up attention, which is attention that we can allocate to something effortlessly. We just point the spotlight as something and we just kind of notice it. We kind of can't help but notice it. That's bottom up attention. Top-down attention is different. Top-down attention is attention that we allocate quite effortfully. We have to consciously work to kind of pay attention to something. And you kind of know how this works, you could have a book for homework that you don't really feel like reading and it takes you a little bit of work to read it, that's kind of top-down attention. But if somebody in your room screamed your name, then that would be bottom-up attention, you couldn't help but pay attention to that. So those are the different parts of attention, but we also know that both of those parts of attention have some pretty dumb features, dumb features that matter for our happiness and bias us in problematic ways when it comes to the things that we might get joy from. One of these problematic features of attention has to do with the bottom-up part, that automatic part that just grabs onto stuff. Bottom-up attention doesn't care whether we want it to deploy or not. Bottom-up attention stuff is just going to grab our attention whether we like it or not. What do I mean by this? Well the classic example is like if somebody screamed fire in a crowded theater, right, you would notice that and you couldn't help but kind of have a physiological reaction, your fight or flight system would take over. You might want to run out of the room, whether that was accurate information or not. This is kind of classic bottom-up attention. There's some things that just grab your attention and you can't help it. You're just paying attention. That's within your consciousness, whether you want it to be there or not. And the problem is screaming fire in a theater, you might want to know there's a fire, so that's good. Much of our bottom up attention deploying is good, but some of it isn't so good. Our bottom of attention deploys to things that we might have craving for. So if you're trying to eat healthier and you see these delicious donuts, you might not be able to help paying attention to them over time. I think more relevant for us in terms of happiness is that bottom up attention tends to deploy to the things that are trying to grab our attention, those notifications on your phone, those little bings. If one of our cell phones went off right now, all of us couldn't help but notice that and pay attention even though hopefully you want to be paying attention to this lecture, the little notification went off would immediately steal your attention away. And that's problematic because it means we don't have control over the things that we really do want to focus on. The things that might be giving us some interesting joy. So that was problem number one. We can't control our bottom-up attention. It just kind of goes off whether we want it to or not. The other problem is that all of our attention, whether we deploy at bottom-up or top-down, it's much more limited than we think. We think we're paying attention to stuff all the time. We think we can multitask with ease, but in practice we're paying attention to way less stuff than we think. And this is especially true when we have devices that might be really good at stealing our bottom-up attention. So imagine you're on vacation with your friends, they're telling you some story about some cool things that happened last night, but you're looking at your phone. You think you're hearing this whole story. You think you're processing all this information about the beach. But it turns out that our minds just can't do that. Our attention is so limited that that information is not getting in. And that's particularly problematic if some of that information might be the kind of thing that gives us joy, or social connection, or it's just something we want to be paying attention to. How do we know this? Well we know this from lots of studies that have looked at the cost of your bottom-up detention deploying and kind of running out of the limited capacity that attention that we have. And one of my favorite studies on this comes from Isikman and colleagues that looked at the consequences for your joy of a simple cell phone notification going off while something else good is happening, right? So does your cell phone notification going off reduce your enjoyment for other activities? They did this both in cases where you pay attention to your notification, you pause and you look at it, and just in cases where it just goes off in the background. So here's a case where you actually look at the notification that comes in. So let's say you're in a movie theater, you're watching a movie you like, notification goes off and you look at it. What does that do to your happiness? So when you check your notification during the movie, your happiness is like a 6.61 out of 10. But when you don't check it, you get a whole point extra of happiness simply for not checking it, right? But you could say, well that's like you take your phone out, you look at your notification, you're missing part of the movie, right? But what if the thing just goes off and you try to ignore it, right? You're doing the thing where you're like, no, no, I'm trying to use my top-down attention to pay attention to stuff. Hopefully that doesn't reduce your joy, right? Well, Isikman and colleagues looked at this, they did this in the context of people doing another joyful activity. Playing Mario Kart, so you're either playing Mario Kart where your cell phone vibrates and you hear it, but you don't check it, it's just going off in your pocket somewhere or it doesn't. And you look at the enjoyment for Mario Kart, and what you find is that you significantly enjoy Mario Kart more when there was no vibration going off in your cell phone. And if you don't like video games, they have another condition where you're getting a nice relaxing massage, and you hear a beep on your phone or you don't. And what they find is when you hear the beep, it significantly reduces your enjoyment of the massage. Now, these are big effects, right? If you have a possible ten point enjoyment of some activity, you're going down a whole point just because your phone beeped in the middle of it, right? We don't assume that that's affecting us. In fact, we don't assume it's affecting us in so many of the things we do in our lives, but these things are affecting us much more than we expect. And so our distraction seems to matter a lot more for happiness than we give it credit for. And this is kind of a problem because it means, especially with the devices we have that are constantly competing for our bottom-up attention, it means we're missing out on a lot of the good stuff in life. Think of the last time you ate something delicious while you're also checking your phone, right? Think of the last time you were engaged in some social activity where you're checking your phone, or just like walking around this beautiful campus where there's something kind of grabbing your attention. All these things that you could be mindfully getting some joy out of, you're getting a little bit less simply because you're paying attention to these other things. And it's worth noting that this is kind of our own fault. We have some choice over whether or not we have our notifications on and we pay attention to this stuff. We're willingly choosing this kind of distraction. We keep it in our presence all the time. Just some scary statistics from Ward and colleagues, and this is back in 2017. So it's probably even worse now when we're having this conversation. Right now we interact with our phones on average 85 times a day, and this is the average, some of you probably doing this even higher. 91% of people report never being without their phone, and 46% of people say they can't live without their phone. It makes them anxious to not have this device around that's stealing their bottom-up attention all the time.