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Lately I've been thinking of a digital music class I took in which sample rate was exaplained (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_rate). I always thought this was a great analogy for human attention/retention of information. Using the analogy, meditation seems to be geared toward increasing the rate at which we're sampling any given period of time with the goal being as nearly complete a sample as possible.
I've seen case studies which implied the average person is not very attentive to the particulars of a given situation, particularly when they've already got a task in mind to distract from them. The most notable being a study in which students enrolling for college were directed to go to a room, get a form and proceed to the next location directed. The student would arrive at the room, request the form, and the person behind the counter would duck down out of sight "to get the form," but a completely different person would stand up and hand the form over. As I recall, the percentage who noticed the completely different person was staggeringly low...about 10% I'm guessing. Even at 30%, which I'm sure is well above the study's measurement, this apparent fact is somewhat disturbing considering most people, when asked, seem to think they're pretty aware of their surroundings.
I'm writting about this because in my opinion, the issue of attention and sample rate plays into everything we do and that it is for this ability to get a relatively "full" sample that we train