Covert Attention And Overt Attention

Dr. Purushothaman
October 2, 2013

Recent studies have acknowledged at least three distinct components of what is often referred to under the blanket term "love".
With advanced technology enabling long distance relationships, the line between the former two can seem blurred; however, it is generally accepted that each member of a couple "in love" will have experienced lust for one another first, followed by romantic interest, and finally attachment.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, is characterized by an inability to shift one's attention from a particular thought or action pattern. Those diagnosed with the disorder tend to have difficulty controlling both overt and covert attention due to interference from obsessive images or thoughts. In the field of psychology, overt attention is characterized as visual focus; while covert attention is characterized as mental focus regardless of ocular activity.
An abundance of activity in the anterior cingulate cortexes of participants newly "in love" was similar to that found in patients diagnosed with OCD, suggesting that lust and romantic attraction may similarly affect attention. Though the study is strictly correlational, it raises questions as to exactly how new love interferes with one's life. It is widely acknowledged that breaking up with or losing a loved one can negatively affect an otherwise-healthy person's performance at work or in school; but can a happy relationship in its early stages also distract to the point of reducing productivity?
Of course it would be impossible, not to mention unethical, to keep people from falling in love even if this were the case. However, the mere knowledge that attention can be so affected may prove helpful in keeping new lovers on track with obligations not involving their loved ones. Even OCD patients, after all, frequently understand that their compulsions are arbitrary; which drives many to seek treatment. Similarly, understanding the chemical effects of their condition may benefit new lovers attempting to complete tasks that involve a shift in attention. Therefore, future empirical studies along this line of research should involve task completion performance by participants diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder as compared to that of healthy participants at various stages in their romantic relationships.

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