Attention (cognitive)

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created 3 years ago by amj8
updated 3 years ago by amj8
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our ability to focus or make conscious different perceptions

  • the mental act of concetrating on a stimulus
  • can include external stimuli or internal stimuli
  • limited resource

Why might attention be useful?

  • we are constantly perceiving a huge amount of info and it would take a lot of mental resources to process it all
  • we perceive more than we can process, it's simply impossible to attend to it all
  • attention can be thought of as turning up the volume
  • so we attend to some info and not other info

Explicit Processes

cognitive processes that involve conscious awareness


Implicit Processes

cognitive processes that occur w/o conscious awareness


Controlled (top down) Attention

capacity limited, conscious, controllable


Vigillance (sustained attention)

the ability to maintain your attention over time

  • attention declines in ~20-35 min
  • performance decline is not about failing to notice but difficulty responding (response bias)
  • easiest to detect long signal, frequent signal, w little background noise

Automatic (bottom up) Attention

not limited, w/o awareness, not controlled


Attention Capture

the spontaneous orientation of attention towards an unexpected stimulus


Orienting Retier

the spontaneous orientation towards an unexpected stimulus (could be body, eyes, etc)



the decrease in orienting/capture from repeating exposure


Visual Search

the process of manually searching through a scene for a certain target


Pop Out

a target simply "pops ou" of the scene and can be found, semingly, w/o searching


Feature Search

the search for a simple feature

  • Triesman found that searching for the presence of a unique featre occurs rapidly and independent of set size

Conjunction Search

the search for a combination of features

  • slower, laborious and dependent on set size

Inhibition of Return

the tendency to not attend to recently examined locations

  • important during visual search, as you do not want to search the same spots over and over again

Selective Attention

the ability to focus attention on a target and ignore competing stimuli


Divided Attention

when participants are presented w 2 or more streams of info and are asked to attend to all of them


Dual-Task Procedure

presenting participants w 2 tasks, w 1 being primary and using most attention resources, leaving little attenton for the secondary task


Shadow Task

participants are told to repeat one auditory stream aloud and ignore the other

  • becomes much harder as the message in each ear becomes more similar

Shadow Ear

  • surprisingly difficult
  • subjects spoke in a monotone voice, no intonation, lagged behind the message
  • were accurate yet couldn't report what they had repeated later on

Ignored Ear

  • couldn't report the content
  • could report some physical changes (human voice to tone, male to female)
  • couldn't report content of message at all
  • even if message was repeated 50 times

Early Selection Model of Attention

info is filtered by attention based on its physical characteristics

  • exceptions
    • cocktail Party Effect
    • Message Continuation

Cocktail Party Effect

when a participants name was spoken they sometimes could detect it


Message Continuation

messages that switch to the unattended ear are followed briefly


Late Selection Model of Attention

all info receives some low-level processing, which is evaluated before being further attended to


Early Vs Late Selection

  • when there is a lot of perceptual info to sort through individuals may adopt an early filter
  • when there is less perceptual info to filter out individuals may adopt a late filter

Attentionaal Blink

a brief slowdown in processing after processing a stimulus

  • a brief gap in attention that occurs after shifting your attention from one stimulus to another

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation

technique where stimuli are rapidly presented

  • attentional blink occurs ~180-450 ms after attending to a new item

Attention is Contrilles

  • you decide, you attend
  • so far we have talked a lot about controlled attention, there are autonomic aspects too
  • autonomic aspects of attention may not drain the pool of limited resources

Stroop Effect

difficulty in overcoming autonomic word reading when asked to name text color

  • focus on explaining why reponse conflicts occur

Processing Speed

we read words faster than we name colors. The words reach the decision stage first, causing confusion


Selective Attention

naming a color requires more attention than reading a word. Greater inhibition is required when name and color conflict



reading is automatic, naming a color is not. The stroop effect is caused by this conflict


Beyond Stroop

  • more generally, w/ experience, even complex atentional processes can be automatized
  • action slips: automatic actions that occur inappropriately

Mind Wandering

when attention drifts away from a task towards internal thoughts

  • tends to occur when vigilance is low (ie environment is not simulating, attention is not being adequately captured)
  • detectable: poor memory for external stimuli during mind wandering
    • during eye movements become more eratic and eyes blink more
    • ERP studies show reduced processing of external stimuli

Inattention Blindness

  • over and over we have said that info that is not attended to is ignored
  • inattentional blindness, failing to notice something that was not attended to (filtering)
  • a related idea is the concept of change blindness, which is the inability to notice obvious changes

Choice Blindness

  • the failure to notice a change in a choice that you have made
  • ex:
    • choose brunette but are presented w a blonde
    • "i prefer this b/c i prefer blondes"
    • participants were blind to the change 75% of the time
    • in a post experiment survey, 84% of participants said they would have noticed if they were in an experiment that did this

Hemispatial Neglect

  • an extreme neglect of one side of space
  • results from damage to the parietal lobes, a common result of stroke
  • occurs more commonly on left side of space (right side of brain)
  • the right parietal lobe is more vulnerable to damage than the left side during a stroke
  • perhaps also b/c right brain is more spatial (left is more language)