Absent-mindedness is a condition in which people demonstrate any or all of a group of traits including limited attentiveness, forgetfulness, excessive focus on one topic to the exclusion of others, and distraction. It is not, strictly speaking, a clinical problem, though it can be symptomatic of many neurological or psychological disorders, including Alzheimer's, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression. One of the most common aspects of absent-mindedness is forgetfulness — absent-minded people often forget where they put certain needed objects, where they were supposed to be at a certain time, and what tasks they were supposed to complete. In many cases, absent-minded people recall all of these things at some point after it is too late to make a difference.
Limited attentiveness is one of the defining traits of absent-mindedness and is one of the main reasons for the name of the condition. To someone talking to a highly inattentive individual, it may actually seem as though the mind is, in fact, "absent." Inattentiveness is, in many cases, caused by hyperfocus, or intensive focus on a single topic of interest to the exclusion of all others. Inattentiveness can also be a characteristic of absent-mindedness if the absent-minded individual is easily distracted. Even without hyperfocus, an absent-minded person may be distracted by environmental factors to a degree that greatly inhibits serious attention to any given subject.
Forgetfulness is another major aspect of absent-mindedness. Hyperfocus can play a substantial part in this as well, as it may be difficult for a person to remember small details, such as where he put his keys or when he needs to be at work, when he is completely focused on some other concern. Distraction can also contribute to forgetfulness, as small environmental distractions or trifling thoughts can divert one's attention from the concerns he is expected to remember. In some cases, absent-mindedness prevents someone from remembering some detail in the first place. In other cases, it prevents one from recalling something at the correct moment, such as remembering to remove one's keys from the ignition before locking the car.
Absent-mindedness is a common trait in literature and in other media. The "absent-minded professor," for instance, is a common character archetype. In general, this type of character is brilliant and highly knowledgeable, but is inattentive to a degree that interferes with his functionality in day-to-day life. Hyperfocus is a common trait of the absent-minded professor, whose absent-mindedness is often characterized by obsessive focus on his chosen field of study to the exclusion of most of the other concerns of life. This trait is often represented as being endearing but frustrating to the other characters.