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Hard-Wired for Distractions: Increasing Attention in Legal Research Classrooms

Drake, Alyson and Park, Christine, Hard-Wired for Distractions: Increasing Attention in Legal Research Classrooms (June 24, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

“Legal research instructors often comment on how they demonstrated a skill or discussed a concept in class, only to have their students seemingly not remember it a few minutes later. Many times, they attribute this to students not paying attention or not caring about legal research as much as their other classes. Quite often in these conversations, attention is talked about as though it is an infinite resource over which humans have full control. In reality, human attention is limited and our “distractibility” is a biological function over which we do not have full control. Understanding the limits of human attention, attention’s importance in how students learn, and strategies for sustaining and/or renewing student attention are critical for legal research instructors to design learning opportunities that will lead to retention of critical lawyering skills. Part I of this article will give an introduction to the dual nature of human brains as being both inherently distractible and capable of focused attention. Part II will discuss the primary types of distractions students face in the legal research classroom. Part III will highlight the importance of attention to all parts of the learning process from sensory impressions to the retrieval of information encoded in our long-term memories. Finally, Part IV will discuss practical strategies for increasing attention in legal research classrooms to increase student retention of the important research and analysis skills they are learning.”

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