Attention Is the means by which we actively process a limited amount of information from the enormous amount of information available through our senses, our stored memories, and our other cognitive processes
More directly concerned with awareness – it includes both the feeling of awareness and the content of awareness, some of which may be under the focus of attention.
What is Attention?
It is more than just sensation and perception Attention and arousal are not synonymous There can be intentional deficits in perfectly awake individuals Extreme arousal (as in pain or terror) may impair the flexibility of attention.
Types of Attention
Alertness and arousal – the basic aspects of attention that enable a person to extract information from the environment or to select a particular response (coma → full alertness)
Vigilance (sustained attention) – the ability to sustain alertness (monitor an even stimulus) continuously Selective attention – ability to scan events/stimuli and pick out the ones that are relevant (difficult to monitor two events in the same modality)
The Nature of Attention and Consciousness
Relationship between attention and consciousness
Attention + Consciousness
No attention + No Consciousness
Attention + No Consciousness
No attention + Consciousness
The Nature of Attention and Consciousness
Information that is available for cognitive processing but that currently lies outside of conscious awareness exists at the preconscious level of awareness.
Antony Marcel (1983)
Participants had to classify series of words into various categories (e.g. pine-plant)
Primes where words with two meanings such as palm followed by target word (tree or hand)
We try to remember something that is known to be stored in memory but that cannot quite be
Retrieved People who cannot come up with the word, but who thought they knew it, could identify the first letter, indicate the number of syllables, or approximate the world’s sounds.
Controlled Versus Automatic Processes
Require intentional effort; full conscious awareness; consume many intentional resources; performed serially; relatively slow
Little or no intention or effort; occur outside of conscious awareness; do not require a lot of attention, performed by parallel processing; fast
Many tasks that start off as controlled processes eventually become automatic ones
The process by which a procedure changes from being highly conscious to being relatively automatic.
We become accustomed to a stimulus; we gradually notice it less and less (e.g. music and studying)
A change in a familiar stimulus prompts us to start noticing the Stimulus again Sensory adaptation Physiological phenomenon; not subject to conscious control; occurs directly in the sense organ, not in the brain.
Vigilance and Signal Detection
We vigilantly try to detect whether we did or did not sense a signal (a particular target stimulus of interest)
A person’s ability to attend to a field of stimulation over a prolonged period, during which the person seeks to detect the appearance of a particular target stimulus
Example – (Mackworth, 1948)
Participants were watching when a clock hand took a double step Substantial deterioration after half an hour of observation Vigilance can be increased with training.
Scan the environment for particular features whereas vigilance involves passively waiting for a signal stimulus to appear, search involves actively seeking out the target
Nontarget stimuli that divert our attention away from the target stimuli can cause false alarm.
Stroop effect (Stroop, 1935)
Demonstrates the psychological difficulty in selectively attending to the color of the ink and trying to ignore the word that is printed with the ink of that color Since reading is an automatic process (not readily subject to your conscious control) you find it difficult intentionally to refrain from reading and instead to concentrate on identifying the color of the ink.
The cocktail party problem (Cherry, 1953)
The process of tracking one conversation in the face of the distraction of other conversations
Listening to two different messages and repeating back only one of the messages as soon as possible after you hear it Dichotic presentation listening to two different messages (presenting a different message to each ear) and attending to only one of them.
Filter and Bottleneck Theories
We filter information right after it is registered at the sensory level
Moray’s Selective Filter Model
The selective filter blocks out most information at the sensory level, but some highly salient messages are so powerful that they burst through the filtering mechanism (e.g. your name)