Continuous partial attention

Continuous partial attention

Continuous partial attention (CPA) is the process of paying simultaneous attention to a number of sources of incoming information, but at a superficial level. The term was coined by Linda Stone in 1998.[1][2] Author Steven Berlin Johnson describes this as a kind of multitasking: "It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You're paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish."[3]

Stone has clarified that CPA is not the same as multi-tasking.[4][5] Where multi-tasking is driven by a conscious desire to be productive and efficient, CPA is an automatic process, motivated only by "a desire to be a live node on the network".[6] Compared to multi-tasking, full attention is not required by CPA (hence the "partial") and the process is ongoing rather than episodic (hence the "continuous").

See also


  1. ^ Continuous Partial Attention
  2. ^ Nate Torkington's blog coverage of Stone's talk at the 2006 O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference.
  3. ^ Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Berlin Johnson, p.59
  4. ^ Continuous Partial Attention — Not the Same as Multi-Tasking, July 24, 2008, Business Week
  5. ^ Multitasking versus continuous partial attention Lifehacker, January 11, 2008
  6. ^

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • continuous partial attention — noun a state of mind in which one s attention is frequently being interrupted, as by incoming email, instant messaging, mobile phones, etc. Abbrev.: CPA {phrase coined by US IT consultant Linda Stone in 1998} …   Australian-English dictionary

  • attention — attentional, adj. n. /euh ten sheuhn/; interj. /euh ten shun /, n. 1. the act or faculty of attending, esp. by directing the mind to an object. 2. Psychol. a. a concentration of the mind on a single object or thought, esp. one preferentially… …   Universalium

  • Human multitasking — Human multi tasking or multitasking is the performance by an individual of appearing to handle more than one task at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking. An example of multitasking is listening to a radio interview while …   Wikipedia

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  • disattention — n. The deliberate refusal to pay attention to certain things. Example Citation: Or perhaps a marathon runner wants to learn to overcome the muscle fatigue she feels during a long run. Dr. Handel would teach this person disattention, which means… …   New words

  • attentional blink — n. The momentary lapse in awareness that occurs after a stimulus catches the brain s attention. Example Citations: Our love of our name even defeats attentional blink . This is temporary amnesia caused by the fact that human beings are not good… …   New words

  • background — v. To surreptitiously perform a task in the background while one s attention is supposed to be on another task. Example Citation: backgrounding verb The practice of not giving someone your full attention while multitasking. Tim Nelson, Millennium …   New words

  • CPA (disambiguation) — CPA is a three letter abbreviation with multiple meanings, as described below: General *Certified Public Accountants qualified accountant professionals in the United States and many other countries. *Certified Practising Accountants a member of… …   Wikipedia

  • Menschliches Multitasking — Unter Multitasking (seltener menschliches Multitasking) versteht man die Fähigkeit eines Menschen, mehrere Tätigkeiten zur gleichen Zeit oder abwechselnd in kurzen Zeitabschnitten durchzuführen, so z. B. eine E Mail zu verfassen und gleichzeitig… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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