What Cocktail Parties Teach Us - WSJ.com
There are about 5 studies mentioned here, all had a great effect on how researchers have focused on our ability to both filter things out, and focus things in.
One I think that is probably critical at this time is the one about driving, it is the attention span more that anything, cell phones on speaker, are just as bad as cell phones in a persons hand. Now texting and such has proven to be more dangerous, because it takes more time and attention. But if you go back to the 70' & 80's kids tuning radios where considered the cause of a great number of accidents, and folks wanted to ban them as well. Get back to the key factor, our brains take in information from hearing, eyes, all senses, plus they go off on tangents of their own. Sometimes called road hypnosis, where the person arrives at the office or home, and has no real memory of the drive, they where thinking about vacations, or a spat they just had, something.
Yes, police are trained at keeping a wider focus, but it is training, that is backed by practice. Sit in a patrol car sometime, the radio is turned low, lots of voices are being heard, yet the officer hears that one call for their number or code, or even event in the nearby area. You did not hear it, thru all the background but they did. It is the same with a mother that can hear her baby's crys over all the other noise in a room.
The key is to open the the senses to see and hear more, yes if you consciously try and process it all it would drive you crazy very quickly. That is why a lot of the filters are in place in our minds, to protect us from the onslaught of information our senses bring our mind.
But there is a middle ground, and we can work to make both that middle ground bigger, and make it work for us better. It takes training, (probably didn't a million years ago) and practice, and and, wait for it. trust. We are going to have to learn to trust that pin prick of intuition that something is not right. Then we need to train ourselves to come off focus, let more information in, and then let that cave man instinct buried deep in our brains look for dangers. The filters will still protect us from going crazy from the input, we are just letting more in at a deeper level, (actually it already is coming in,we just don't recognize it because our filters block it), we are just trying to see, hear, & feel more.
The eyes are the easiest for me to deal with, and I think the quickest return on investment of time and practice. Try this, close your eyes, very gently, don't slam them shut just gently, now think for a moment, when you open them, do not focus, let you eye's see everything from top to bottom of your vision, from left to right. Ok, open your eyes gently, it will take some time to get the hang of it. But as you get better at it, you will notice that you still notice things, the car that passed, the people getting out of a car, the bird landing on a tree. All non threatening, so they just pass by, and we do not have to react. But if something does go off course, like the people getting out of the car just staring at you, now focus, see what the issue is, ah they think you are staring at them, or they are looking behind you. Once you can put it into a normal box, let you attention and focus widen again. You will probably have to close your eyes, and start over for a while.
I will as I always do bring in the breathing, if you can take deep slow, rythmic breaths, you will calm down a lot of the brian activity, and the filters will settle a bit more, making it easier to notice danger.
I know this will help, and that it works, I hope you can get to the point it works for you.