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"A beautiful woman always draws my attention".

"While I was chatting at Laura's party, a beautiful guy suddenly drew my attention".

«Now I wish to draw your attention to what has attracted my attention most». (Enigmas of Psychical Research)

But can I say, e.g., "my research in social psychology has drawn my attention to the relevance of theoretical physics for behavioral sciences"?

What it should be conveyed in the last phrase is the idea that you were doing something – studying social psychology – and that brought you to do something else which, externally, seemed quite different from the first activity. The attention, as it were, strayed from the first topic to the second one and that was due to the first topic's inner feature. I would not conceive 'attract the attention' as a valid alternative, for it lacks that compelling and coercive element 'draw' seems to imply.

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  • You mean divert: "My attention was diverted by ...".
    – Kris
    Dec 20 '18 at 7:51
  • Thanks to your comment, Kris. I would say 'divert' might mean too much of a definitive switch of the attention from one point to another. Here the attention is still focused on social psychology, the only difference being that now also the contribution of theoretical physics is considered. And that result – theoretical physics being considered – is not a casual one. The research itself "mandated" that outcome. It has led, so to speak, the researcher there. Dec 20 '18 at 13:56
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But can I say, e.g., "my research in social psychology has drawn my attention to the relevance of theoretical physics for behavioral sciences"?

Yes, you can. To draw [something to something/someone], in this context = to attract [something towards/in the direction of something/someone.]

OED

26. figurative. To attract by moral force, persuasion, inclination, etc.; to induce to come (to a place); to attract by sympathy (to a person); to convert to one's party or interest; to lead, entice, allure, turn (to, into, or from a course, condition, etc.).

b. The mind, desires, eyes, attention, etc.

c1230 Hali Meid. 33 For to drahen his luue toward hire. [in order to draw his love to her]

1849 E. E. Napier Excursions Southern Afr. II. 95 My attention being drawn to the spot, I saw an animal.

1884 L. J. Jennings in Croker Papers I. vi. 154 A great bereavement..drew his mind from public affairs.

NB This is a figurative use, and therefore is broader in its application.

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The most direct way to convey the desired idea would simply be to change the temporally vague "has drawn" to the active "drew". If you want to emphasize the connection between your research and the change in viewpoint, you might use some construction like "It was my research in social psychology which led me to the . . .".

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  • Thanks to your comment user328810. Yeah, I guess it works. Does "The research drew my attention to the relevance of theoretical physics for behavioral sciences" sound idiomatic? I can't feel it "sound", but it might definitely be my "linguistic shortage". Dec 20 '18 at 14:03
  • It sounds idiomatic to me @SilvioRobertoVinceti
    – BoldBen
    Jan 19 '19 at 3:27
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Oe definition of the word distract in the Merriam Webster online dictionary is

to draw or direct (something, such as someone's attention) to a different object or in different directions at the same time.

This can be a result of deliberate actions (for instance a shoplifter's accomplice might distract a security person's attention from the actions of the shoplifter) or, as in the case of your example, a natural or inadvertent diversion of attention. The difference between distract and divert is that, when your attention is distracted from object A to object B you can still pay some attention to object A whereas when your attention is diverted from A to B you normally ignore A altogether.

I believe that your were distracted by the attractive man but you could continue the conversation.

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You could also say:

My research in social psychology brought to my attention the relevance of theoretical physics for behavioral sciences.

bring to attention - to make someone aware of something (M-W)

or

My research in social psychology turned my attention to the relevance of theoretical physics for behavioral sciences.

turn your attention(s) to sth/sb - to start to think about or consider a particular thing or person. (Cambridge)

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