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Distributed Attention/'Rider Vision'

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' started by Bravus, Nov 16, 2011.

  1. This is a bit of an odd one, because it concerns subjective experience, so it's hard to describe, and it could be just me...

    When I'm riding I experience a kind of 'distributed attention' where I'm not focused on one particular spot, but am scanning the whole environment for threats. In general I'm looking where I'm looking, but I'm much more aware of my peripheral vision than under normal circumstances.

    I'm not sure whether it's just that, or whether it's a combination of that and too much time staring at computer screens between rides (I work on one all day at work and then game too much in the evening) or whether my vision and the fact that I wear multifocal glasses is contributing, but...

    Lately I seem to feel in that mode most of the time, even when walking. It means I'm great at avoiding people in shopping centres, but it is accompanied by a slightly alienated feeling toward what I see. The specs allow me to see to the mountains clearly, so if there's an issue with my vision it's a subtle one. But I just kinda feel visually 'disconnected from the world', and don't remember feeling like that in the past.

    I'll get my eyes checked out as soon as work gets less busy, and I plan to spend a heap less time staring at screens over the summer and to go to the beach, play golf, kick a ball around the park and so on. So I guess we'll see whether the feeling dissipates over time.

    Just wanted to ask whether anyone is experiencing anything similar, and maybe spark a more general discussion around vision and riding.
  2. I can relate to the 'distributed attention' as you describe it. I do not need glasses at all, so eyesight should not be an issue for me, but I do focus less on specific items, and more on the entire streetscape. I think this is because I am aware of increased danger from external threats when riding than when, say, driving. To me, it is a little like when you walk somewhere quiet in the dark, and you seem to be more aware of your hearing abilities than normal.

    This 'distributed attention' stays with me for a while when I get off the bike, for about a half an hour. I find I am more aware of things going on behind me, or to the side of me than usual. I also find that I anticipate others actions more than normal. Again, this may be just perception, but to me it feels real enough.
  3. Fantastic subject matter Bravus. I'm not able to give an indepth answer so I'll cut straight the chase.

    If I'm reading you right then you're emotionaly disconnected rather than visually disconnected from the world which is a good thing. Remaining objective in a subjective world gives your grey matter the thinking space to adequately assess real risks as opposed to primal subjective ones.

    Your eyesight and your brain isn't shut down, it's simply in 'power save' mode until something worth being alert about wakes it into action.
  4. I think everyone who rides or drives should get his/her eyes checked, especially for peripheral vision, even if he/she has no reason to assume that there's something wrong with vision. It's peripheral vision that gives us that precious 'edge' when it comes to threats that come from a tangent, and not in the 'normal' field of vision.

    Allied to that, the amount of peripheral vision that a helmet allows should be one of our buying criteria.....
  5. I hadn't thought of it this way, but you are probably onto something here. The objectivity is something I notice, rather than emotional responses. The emotions come after I have avoided a SMIDSY, but during the incident, I am totally focussed on avoidance and do feel a little disconnected.
  6. I've noticed something like this. If someone looked at your face they'd probably think you were glazed over and not paying attention. But really you're just more aware, especially of your peripheral vision - it does a lot of work behind the scenes that most people wouldn't know. It's like the fluid in your ears that aids balance; it's there constantly carrying out an important function which you can take advantage of in many riding situations.

    Definitely a problem if what you've described is happening to you involuntarily, though.
  7. I've done a lot of spearfishing and the distributed vision thing comes into play there. I don't swim along staring intently at everything but sort of take it all in and "sense" where the fish is. Then I target fixate.
  8. Bravus, to me it sounds like you're in the "Zone". Your brain is conciously working at a higher level of alertness when you're on the bike, manifesting itself in the intensified periferal vision. And it's carrying over into normal life as well. (the shopping centre for e.g.) I work in front of a computer all day pushing pixels around with a sharp focus. When I read the paper on the weekend I feel like I'm reading each letter of the word instead of scanning the whole word...Make sense? It takes me a few days for my eyes to relax.
  9. I agree with Chef, sounds more like a psychological trigger than physical, but results in a desirable physical state where you can recognise and mitigate risk logically. Don't rabbits do something like that when they scan the horizon for potential threat?
  10. I'm in the same boat Bravus...on the computer at work, on the computer at home (or TV if computer decides to be an arse) and ride between the 2 places. I have found, that even if I have a conversation (one on one) with someone else, say at a dinner table in a public place, my mind wanders to things around the immediate area...it doesn't help because I get easily distracted and quiet frankly if you're not listening to a woman talk you're going to cop a slap or a really scary greasy. So I have to try extra hard to tunnel vision...so not to be rude to the person talking to me. This goes for both boring and really engaging conversations...

    In that regard, I would agree with Chef about being emotionally detached, rather than visually/physically.
  11. Or Meerkats...
  12. So it's settled then, Bravus is a Meerkat
    • Like Like x 2
  13. I actually agree with you on this. The test they give you at the RTA is not an eye test. Up until a few years ago I could pass the RTA eye test with no problem, yet I'm short sighted and actually don't feel safe riding/driving without my glasses (or contacts, I hate contacts).

    I had my peripheral vision tested a few years ago when the optometrist noticed some 'greying' in my eyes. After the test he was no longer concerned. Apparently I have better than average peripheral vision.
  14. Great discussion, all.

    I think I'll do what I said: go to the optometrist and get checked out, and also aim to spend 3-4 weeks almost computer-free over the summer holidays. Sadly I'll also be on a pushy more than the Bandit over the break as well, but that might help.

    With a little luck, whether it's physical or psychological, I should have more of a handle on it.

    I agree that 'The Zone' is a good thing, and this awareness means I seldom even have close calls because I'm very aware of potential threats, so it's not a bad thing... but like phongus said on the previous page, if the disconnect carries over into social situations and relationships it can be... unhelpful.
  15. I know if I spend a few days PC gaming this happens; suddenly unable to apply expected social filters. I usually get in trouble.
  16. Well Reesa this might not happen if you look at the person you're talking to rather then pervingon whats walking past lol
  17. Bravus it could be that you've just stumbled on what Keith Code has dubbed "Wide Vision". Keep the vision wide and move your awareness around within it - this helps reduce tunnel vision and manage SR's.
  18. Who would have thought drooling would be socially unacceptable?
  19. maybe its a tumour?
    • Like Like x 1
  20. allways look at there tits if it upsets them you know your not gunna get a root anyway so no loss