Attention

  • Divided Attention, Selective Attention, Inattentional Blindness, and Change Blindness
  • Attention is a limited resource
    • Divided Attention. doing two things at once you end up switching between tasks rather than doing them simultaneously.
    • When you switch you’re exercising your selective attention – process of reacting to certain stimuli selectively as they occur simultaneously. There are two types of cues that can direct our attention:
      • Exogenous – don’t have to tell ourselves to look for them (Ex. Bright colors, loud noises, “pop-out effect”)
      • Endogenous (require internal knowledge to understand the cue and the intention to follow it, ex. A mouse arrow, or the cocktail party effect).
      • Cocktail party effect – ability to concentrate on one voice amongst a crowd. Or when someone calls your name.
    • Inattentional blindness – we aren’t aware of things not in our visual field when our attention is directed elsewhere in that field.
    • Change blindness – fail to notice changes in environment.
  • Theories of Selective Attention
  • How do we filter out the unimportant information?
    • Shadowing task – left ear hear one thing, right ear another thing. Told to repeat everything said in one ear and ignore the other. We can learn about how selective attention works by seeing what they filter out in other ear.
  • 1) Broadbent’s Early Selection Theory
    • All info in environment goes into sensory register, then gets transferred to selective filter right away which filters out stuff in unattended ear and what you don’t need to understand it (accents etc.), and finally perceptual processes identifies friend’s voice and assigns meaning to words. Then you can engage in other cognitive processes.
      • Some problems – if you completely filter out unattended info, shouldn’t identify your own name in unidentified ear. Cocktail party effect.
    • 2) Deutch & Deutch’s Late Selection Theory
      • Places broadband selective filter after perceptual processes. Selective filter decides what you pass on to conscious awareness.
      • But given limited resources and attention, seems wasteful to spend all that time assigning meaning to things first.
    • 3) Treisman’s Attenuation Theory
      • Instead of complete selective filter, have an attenuator – weakens but doesn’t eliminate input from unattended ear. Then some gets to perceptual processes, so still assign meaning to stuff in unattended ear, just not high priority. Then switch if something important.
  • The Spotlight Model of Attention and Multitasking
  • Spotlight model of attention Selective attention – takes info from 5 senses, but don’t pay attention to everything.
    • Aware of things on an unconscious level
      • Priming, where exposure to one stimulus affects response to another stimulus, even if we haven’t been paying attention to it.
      • We’re primed to respond to our name. Why it’s a strong prime for pulling our attention.
  • Resource model of attention – we have limited resources in attention.
    • Both models say something about our ability to multitask – not very good at it. Supported by research study.
  • Multitasking/divided attention
    • What about talking on phone or texting while driving?
      • Maybe not multitasking, just switching spotlight back and forth.
    • What about singing to radio?
      • Task similarity – ex. Listening to radio while writing a paper. Better to listen to classical music, because harder to multitask with similar tasks.
    • Task difficulty – harder tasks require more focus.
    • Practice – activities well practiced become automatic, or things that occur without need for attention. Whether task is automatic or controlled (harder).
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