Eye Focus

Kara Powell | May 11, 2010

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been reading The Age of the Unthinkable, after it was recommended by my friend, Chap Clark.

The author, Joshua Cooper Ramo, summarizes some research conducted on college students at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, MI. Eye focus was tracked using technology, so that when students were shown different pictures, the technology would trace where the eye focused on the picture, and for how long.

The results? American students tended to look immediately at the main image in the foreground of the picture (i.e., the tiger or the horse). Once they locked onto that central image, their eyes stayed there.

Chinese students, on the other hand, usually looked at the environment around the main object first, and were never as fixated on the central image.

Ramo goes on to imply that folks need to adopt a view of the world more akin to those of Chinese descent—very aware of the context and background and not getting locked onto something too quickly.

That’s true, but I can point to a dozen leadership/management books on my shelves that would say the opposite—that we need more focus on what’s central.

I think we need both—an ability to look at what’s in front of us and an ability to scan the environment. But let me ask you this: is one more important than the other? In our changing culture, do we need to be more aware of the environment than we used to? The Age of Uncertainty would argue for that, but I’m curious what you think…

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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