Effortless training of attention and self-control: mechanisms and applications

Yi Yuan Tang, Rongxiang Tang, Michael I. Posner, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


For the past 50 years, cognitive scientists have assumed that training attention and self-control must be effortful. However, growing evidence suggests promising effects of effortless training approaches such as nature exposure, flow experience, and effortless practice on attention and self-control. This opinion article focuses on effortless training of attention and self-control. We begin by introducing our definitions of effortful and effortless training and reviewing the growing literature on these two different forms of training. We then discuss the similarities and differences in their respective behavioral outcomes and neural correlates. Finally, we propose a putative neural mechanism of effortless training. We conclude by highlighting promising directions for research, development, and application of effortless training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-577
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • attention
  • attention balanced state
  • effortless training
  • parasympathetic nervous system
  • self-control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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