Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Background Consciousness?

Have you ever developed a competence so great at a particular task that it only took up a minimal amount of consciousness, allowing you to dedicate your mind to other endeavors?

I hope no traffic cops read this, but back in Michigan I once developed such a strong familiarity with driving on my local roads that I would actually lose the awareness that I was driving. Even stranger yet, despite having my mind concentrated upon other matters I was still even able to notice hazards and respond accordingly, such as avoiding an object in the road, noticing deer approaching the street, responding to other drivers, and so on. Sometimes when I would pull into my driveway I'd have a sense of confusion, as I didn't know when I arrived there and didn't remember the trip there. I haven't been able to do that in Texas since the road are more challenging and the traffic more abundant, but such is the familiarity I established on Michigan roads: I was able to put my mind on cruise control.

I know it's quite easy to develop a habit so strong one loses awareness of it, but what strikes me as odd in my driving scenario is that I was able to remain flexible enough to respond to changes in the environment, yet not be distracted from any train of thought. I was almost like a computer running two different programs at once, with plenty of resources for each.


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