Studying the fundamental processes of attention has greater benefits than studying any single applied situation
Attention is the process that allows us to select information relevant to our current task and ignore distraction. Attention acts as a ‘gateway to awareness’ – if we don’t attend to something, we are typically not aware of it.
Basic research has clearly demonstrated that attention is extremely capacity limited: we can only attend to a limited amount of information at one time. Our understanding of the processes of attention has many different applications: capacity limits, for example, are relevant in education, in transport, in designs incorporating technology, and so much more.
If we only fund research that is targeted to a direct application, such as the impact of phone use during driving (it impairs driving, in case you were wondering), we might solve one problem. But if we fund basic research to understand how attention works, the limits of its capacity, the factors that enhance or impair it, and the systems at play in the human brain that support it, then the knowledge outcomes have unlimited potential to contribute to solutions across many domains, even for situations we cannot even imagine today!