Distracted much? Of course you are – you’re a mum. Even the mythical ability to multitask (halfway decently) has been debunked, being frazzled by a billion demands is still par for the course if you want to ever leave the house, get your kid fed, or go to the loo. So…the luxury of being able to focus on one thing at a time – like the simple beauty that occasionally blindsides our busy days – is just that; a luxury you can’t really afford.
According to a recent study, the distractions that typify a day in the life of a parent can prevent us from stopping to smell the roses — or even see them, in the first place.
“Our results show that you do need focus to experience beauty, and that distraction prevents that,” study co-author Denis Pelli, and professor of psychology and neural science explains. “If you are being continually distracted by the demands of your child, or if other things in the house are distracting you from being able to interact with your child, the prevention from a sustained focus will prevent that feeling of beauty.”
The experiment involved asking 62 people to rate how much beauty and pleasure they experienced from looking at six pieces of stimuli: a teddy bear, a popular candy, and four pictures (including one self-chosen image considered ‘beautiful’). Participants had to rate the perceived beauty of each object or picture on a scale out of four – four denoting the least beautiful. Then, they were asked to rate again, while having to complete an unrelated task.
The results revealed that once the secondary task was introduced, the participants began to assign lower ratings to objects previously rated as highly beautiful. The takeaway from the findings is obviously that, as in Immanuel Kant’s philosophy on experiencing beauty, you need to engage with it — you need to be in the moment.
But before you lament your failure to see the beauty amidst the poop explosions and scraped knees, you’ll probably agree that it’s becoming a parent that has made you see the world in a whole new, uniquely beautiful light – the likes of which can probably never be measured by any science or philosophy. (Although we could always do without the poop explosions.)