Narrow Attention, Scanning Attention, and ADHD

Have you ever paid attention to the difference between narrow attention and scanning attention? Narrow attention is like texting. Attention is focused narrowly. Scanning attention is like driving a car. You’re scanning signs, speed, other cars, spatial changes in relation to yours, etc. Note, you can’t use narrow and scanning attention at the same time. That’s why texting while driving is so dangerous.

In my work as a coach and in my studies of attention, it seems to me intuition is scanning attention. Let me illustrate. Have you ever looked at someone and your intuition tells you something is different? I have. It’s frustrating, because your gut says something is different, but you can’t prove it, that is, until your narrow attention notices he had shaved off his mustache or lost 10 pounds. Many times, our intuition (scanning attention) picks up on something, but since we can’t isolate it with narrow attention, we often override what our gut is telling us.

My purpose in attending to these two types of attention is to enlighten and help those with ADHD articulate intuition. Often, I’ve coached those with ADHD whose gut says a structure or system wouldn’t work for them. I suspect their intuition is saying their brain is not wired to work that way. Rather than listen to their intuition, they head down what is billed as the obvious path or they apply the obvious solution only to get frustrated if it doesn’t work. Then they get stressed out by the pressure of just trying harder.

I’m not saying your intuition is always correct; it might be reading things incorrectly. But I do know this. Those with ADHD can benefit from pausing and noticing their intuition and spend more time using their narrow attention to illuminate what their intuition is attending to. My featured radio show in this newsletter is an interview I did with clinical psychologist Dr. Ari Tuckman, entitled “What is Intuition? How Can Intuition Help ADDers?” In the interview, we talked in depth about intuition. It was enlightening to have such a direct conversation with him on the topic.

I have two featured videos for you. The first is my interview with Dr. Ari Tuckman on Attention Talk Video on attention and intuition ( The other is an attention test, which I encourage you to watch and take the test. You might be surprised at what you can and can’t see by using your different types of attention. Here’s the link:

What I hope you take away from this is that attention is not one thing. There are different kinds of attention that are used for different things. The more you understand attention, the more you can direct and control attention and, in this situation, actually understand more about intuition and how it concerns you.

2 thoughts on “Narrow Attention, Scanning Attention, and ADHD

  1. Great chat breaking down intuition & how it works with attention. Your interviews continue to leave me with great a-ha moments and help life flow a bit easier moving forward!

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