I have recently read an article about school and the word "attentiveness" was used multiple times in it. I had never heard it and in particular I always used "paying attention" before.

I have searched a bit on the web and so far, beside the usage that is different (I don't think one can use attention without the verb pay before), the only semantic nuance I found is that attentiveness usually involves politeness, while attention does not.

Is there really a difference in the meaning of attentiveness and attention? Or is attentiveness only for a specific context, like education?

Edit: here is an example of the usage: "... to explore the relationship between recess timing and attentiveness in the classroom." From an article of the Atlantic

  • 2
    I can't give an ELU-style answer to your question, but as an educator I despise the use of "attentiveness" to mean "attention." The word "attention" itself is a perfectly good noun for focus on a topic, object, person, etc. I see the use of "attentiveness" as trying to sound more formal or official or educated by adding more affixes to a word. Additionally, since "attentiveness" also has a sense of caring for others, it could be misunderstood. A student could have great attention (to the teacher), but poor attentiveness (to the needs of others). Not an answer, but my two cents. – Katherine Lockwood Dec 4 '16 at 1:05
  • Also: it's perfectly fine to use "attention" without "pay" before it: --"His attention to what people around him are saying and doing is poor." --"Her attention to what people say to her is excellent." --"Bill needs to improve his attention to others' facial expressions." – Katherine Lockwood Dec 4 '16 at 1:05
  • We really need to see the context. "Attentiveness" could be used in a couple of different ways. Please provide a link. I'm voting to close for this reason. – aparente001 Dec 4 '16 at 7:17

Attentiveness first meaning is synonymous with attention in the sense of paying attention, not only in contexts of education. Its second meaning has a different connotation that implies caring for the needs of other people.

1) the quality of listening or watching carefully and with interest:

  • Her eyes were fixed on him with calm attentiveness.

2) attentiveness (to somebody) the quality of being helpful and making sure that people have what they need.

  • He shows genuine attentiveness to others.


From: Students and Attention: An Interesting Analysis:

  • The teaching implications of this research are clear. Teachers should try to improve student attentiveness by using a variety of instructional approaches, especially those that actively engage students. These activities enable students to encounter the content in different formats and make it easier for them to pay attention after the activity has ended.

The two terms are closely related, but fundamentally different. Attention (or more specifically paying attention) is a function of attentiveness, more or less. So a student who consistently pays close attention in class, for instance, is demonstrating a general characteristic of attentiveness. It could also be said that the student is being attentive.

Or another way of looking at it: attention is something that is acted upon, in that one can pay attention or not pay attention. Attentiveness is an aspect of personality or an element of behavior. In other words, the degree to which one does or doesn't pay attention—in any context, not just educationally—is a manifestation of their overall level of attentiveness.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.