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The city and our mind

Just being in an urban environment, scientists have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. …

A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren’t distracted by irrelevant things, like a flashing neon sign or the cellphone conversation of a nearby passenger on the bus. This sort of controlled perception — we are telling the mind what to pay attention to — takes energy and effort. The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power.

1 Comment

  1. James

    But also more crime due to the diminishing space between people (and not just physical space). There’s something both oddly perverse (considering the actual amount of free-space on the planet) yet strangely hypnotic about new modern cities- sometimes they appear to be nothing more than parts of its designed functions, so you often get the impression, while strolling, particularly after normal business hours of an essentially ghost city illumed by the shadows of the vacant ultra high spec office complexes. During other moments, the very same physical same can be occupied by the crowd or a particular type of crowd that somehow becomes coloured by the actual functions of a given district in the city, which again, like the progress of the sun around the buildings throughout the day, can literally “throw out” or cast a different reflection which can be perceived almost as a new phenomenon, say in the late afternoon, or in a different season.

    Baudalaire, I think was one of the first great modern poets who seemed to be able to both discern and capture this (negative?) aura in his poetry.