Attention Economics

Attention economics treats human attention as a scarce commodity. This means treating human time and attention as a valuable resource.

Key Concepts in Attention Economics

Attention Capital Theory: A strategy that leverages human attention and sustained, uninterrupted focus, as a prized asset.

In knowledge work, the primary capital resource is the human brains’ ability to generate new value through sustained attention. - Cal Newport [1]

Information Pollution: Contamination of information systems with incorrect, irrelevant or low value information. This creates “noise” for any person or system trying to find meaning in data. Incorrect and weak conclusions that come from the analysis of bad data are part of the “garbage in, garbage out” phenomenon in analytics.

Attention Pollution: When information pollution overwhelms attention and minimizes the ability to focus on high quality, and beneficial information. This is the phenomenon that occurs when your attention is occupied by low signal, high noise information streams.

Continuous Partial Attention(CPA): Is the paying of simultaneous attention to a number of sources of incoming information, but at a shallow level.

… The state of continuous partial attention can be functional. However, it leads to a higher level of stress in the brain, prohibiting reflection, contemplation and thoughtful decisions. It also dilutes efforts to focus and concentrate on the present (effectively paying attention to what one is doing in the moment instead of shifting from one activity to another). [2]

Too much exposure to multi-tasking, distraction and interruption can leave your brain craving short bursts of constant stimulation. This attention fragmentation can make it harder for you to maintain sustained concentration and focus if you are exposed to it excessively.

More can be read about Attention Economics here.


Thank you to Ashima Athri for reviewing the content of this article. You can check our her blog on computer vision and machine learning here:


[1] Paraphrased theorem from Cal Newport on Attention Economics: The Complicated Economics of Attention Capital

[2] Wikipedia: Continuous Partial Attention