- 1: the act of distracting or the state of being distracted; especially : mental confusion <driven to distraction>
- 2: something that distracts; especially : amusement <a harmless distraction>
Distraction is the diversion of attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction is caused by one of the following: lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; greater interest in something other than the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources (physical stimuli through the five senses), or internal sources (thought, emotion, fantasies, physical urges). Divided attention, as in multitasking, could also be considered as distraction in situations requiring full attention on a single object (e.g. sports, academic tests, performance).
Distraction is a major cause of procrastination, though it is possible to be diligent and still diverted from what is valuable. According to philosopher Damon Young, distraction is chiefly an inability to identify, attend to or attain what is valuable, even when we are hard-working or content.
In works of fiction, distraction is often used as a source of comedy, whether the amusement comes from the gullibility of those distracted or the strangeness of whatever is utilized to create the distraction.