Phenomenon Model Hypothesis
William James defined attention, which is a challenging task.
Selection act of attending to an object to select it apart from the unattended
objects; ex: light flashing in periphery
o Attention is an active process; we actively choose where to select our
Attention (alternate definition) ones conscious ability to attend to the info
that is relevant to our goals.
o Irrelevant info acts as noise that makes it difficult to attend to the
o When irrelevant info overwhelms us, we get distracted.
Automatic and Controlled Attention:
Automatic Processes involuntary capturing attention through being triggered
by external events; fast, efficient, obligatory.
Controlled Processes voluntary, conscious attention to objects of interest;
slow, effortful (due to more cognitive effort); ex: driving (changing lanes,
o Our attentional resources are limited, and must be controlled carefully.
Salient Information found in automatic processes; info that captures our
attention automatically, intentionally or not.
The Spotlight Model (Michael Posner):
Attentional spotlight focuses on one part of the environment at a time.
Can be consciously directed across a visual scene; can also be taken over by
unconscious processes that quickly grab your attention.
o Objects within the spotlight = faster reaction time, higher accuracy.
o Cuing to target can ease the fluency of processing at that location.
o Test the automatic processes of attention.
o Participant determines whether a star appears in the left or right box on
Box that flashes may not contain the star.
o Flashing box automatically attracts the attentional spotlight to the cued
If target is in cued location: attention will amplify the
perceptual processing of the target (detected quickly).
If target is in uncued location: target detected slower, since
attentional spotlight is directed elsewhere.
o Attention does not immediately rely on sight; attentional spotlight can
still miss important information.Filter Models:
suggests that attention works by filtering distractions and allowing only
important information through
o Cocktail Party Effect the ability to separate target sounds from
background noise is based on physical characteristics (gender, pitch,
speech speed). Ex: in a busy party, you can still hear and listen to
your conversation partner
o Filters suppress noise; spotlights enhance stimuli.
Information Filter Further Processing.
o Spotlight model: enhances the flower, relative to the grass
o Filter model: attention ignores the grass and allows the flower to be
Single Filter Model (Donald Broadbent):
o Attentional filter selects important
information based on physical
characteristics; allows the information to
continue on for further processing.
o Information that does not pass through the
early physical filter is deemed
o Accepts less information than dual f