Chapter 4: Attention 10/24/2011 12:10:00 PM
Attending to something that causes the object of attention to be
selected apart from the rest of the unattended objects
Automatic & Control Processes
o Involuntary, and capture your attention.
o These processes are assumed to operate in a fast, efficient
A piece of information is one that appears to naturally
pop-out at you.
o Conscious attention.
o These processes are assumed to operate in a slow, effortful
o Voluntary towards objects of interest.
o You build strategies in your head to operate more efficiently.
o Not being automatically lead by the cue.
Cocktail Party Effect
Despite competing background noises, a listener can focus on a
single channel and still pick out relevant information from the
Example: you are at a restaurant talking to a friend, when you hear
a ring tone that reminds you of your old boyfriend go off. All of a
sudden your attention is switched from listening to your friend to
focusing on the ring tone.
Dichotic Listening Paradigm
Headphones are worn so that one message can be presented to one
ear and a different message can be presented to the other ear. The
participant is instructed to “shadow” or immediately repeat the
messages in the attended ear.
Attention can be switched between ears at random or periodic
intervals demonstrating flexible control over attention.
Some information is still processed in the unattended ear. Where semantic information from unattended channels are
remembered in addition to information from attended channels.
Example: subjects can report the physical features such as pitch
and tone of the voice in the message presented to the unattended
Early Filter Models
Allows us to ignore everything around the object, but not the object
Attention acts like a bottleneck filter. This allows us to only allow
certain information to pass on to conscious awareness.
Broadbent’s Early Selection Theory
o Suggests physical information is filtered before semantic
o Information that does not pass through the early physical
filter was assumed to be completely eliminated and
unavailable for deeper analysis.
o However, this was proved to be untrue because clearly some
information about sound and meaning is able to pass through
o His theory does not agree with the cocktail party effect but
agrees with the shadowing effect.
o Broadbent used data from behavioural experiments to infer
the functional stages of cognitive processing.
o The limitation of Broadbent‟s model is that it assumes that
there is no absolutely additional processing of unattended
Late Filer Models
Suggests filtering occurs after physical and semantic analysis and
only selected information goes on for further processing due to
Accounts for the cocktail party effect.
Treisman’s Attenuation Theory
o Attempted to compensate by suggesting physical information
is just attenuated and if relevant may be brought to the focus
of attention. o All information is passed but the information is assigned
weightings depending on whether the information is
physically similar to the target or not.
o Has two filters, the early filter deals with physical
characteristics, while the late filter deals with semantic
Occurs when participants are able to remember
important information in the unattended stream. This is
particularly common when the unattended information
is highly relevant.
Text of colour words are presented in coloured ink.
Trials in which the word matches the ink are called congruent.
Trials in which the word didn‟t match the ink are called incongruent.
Not all complex processes require attention, numerous experiences
or practice with tasks allow us to perform them almost
Proportion Congruent Manipulation
o Change the ratio of congruent to incongruent trials.
o More congruent trials lead to increased stroop effect; while
more incongruent trials lead to a decreased stroop effect.
o Word reading facilitates colour naming where word-reading
impedes colour naming.
o Word reading influences performance even when the word is
to be ignored.
o Increased Stroop effect.
o People can adopt consciously controlled word reading
strategies that modulate the Stroop effect.
o Decreased Stroop effect.
Visual Search Paradigm
Has been used to model how we search for items in our
Performance is measured by response time as a function of set size. Set Size
o The number of items to search through.
Set Size Effect
o Increase in difficulty as set size increases.
o Example: You are trying to find a red circle among a set of
o Reflects the bottom-up capture of attention driven by the
most noticeable physical properties of the target.
o When a target “pops out” the time it takes to respond to it is
independent of set size such that processing of the whole set
of items seems to happen simultaneously.
o Rapid visual search regardless of set size.
o Easily induced by colour.
o Example: Trying to find your friend in a yellow shirt in a
crowd of people wearing black shirts.
Raw information is gathered through the senses (reflexive).
Refers to a stimulus-driven mechanism in which attention is
captured by the most noticeable change in the environment.
Bottom-up processing automatically captures your attention to alert
you to a police siren, telephone ring, fire alarm or your name being
Interacts with information already stored in memory.
You strategically direct (consciously) your attention to match your
current goals and expectations from past experience through
We can directly observe how goals shape attending strategies by
monitoring where a subject looks by using eye-tracking technology.
Example: You always put your keys in the same spot so the next
time you need your keys you can easily find them.
Where attention moves across a scene. Overt Attending
The direction of attention is made clear through eye movements.
Direction of attention not guided by eye movements but can by eye
movements but can be measured by spatial cuing where cues lead
to faster target detection in periods too short for eye movement.
Inhibition Of Return
Occurs when you attempt to redirect to a previously attended
location at which the target was not found.
Example: You are looking for your friend in a crowd, and you are
aware that your friend is wearing a blue shirt. You won‟t look in
places where you have already looked for your friend.
Exogenous vs. Endogenous Cues
o Physical cues that orient you to a specific peripheral location.
o Capture automatic attention.
o Bottom-up processing is better suited for exogenous cues.
o Example: If you are looking at two computer screens and one
of them flashes with a single white light quickly, you will turn
toward that screen.
Endogenous (Symbolic) Cues
o Requires interpretation.
o They can be ignored if they conflict with task demands.
o Top-down processing is more suitable for endogenous cues.
o Example: Having a left arrow on the screen will cause you to
look to the left of the screen.
Spatial Cuing Paradigm
Measures the movement of attention across a scene and factors
Target detection is quicker when it is correctly cued than when it is
uncued. This is because of automatic detection of attention.
You are searching for a target defined by a combination of features. Takes a long time to process.
Example: trying to find your friend wearing a white shirt and hat
among people that are all wearing white shirts and a coloured hat.
Familiar environmental setting and our general knowledge about
their contexts (SCHEMA) guide our attention in a more efficient
Top down processing.
Example: if you want to find a hairdryer, you are more likely to look
in the bathroom rather than the kitchen.
Demonstrates that our limited attentional processes can be
susceptible to missing out on some very important and most
Example: The person swap, in the video we watched in class
tourists were asking locals how to navigate through the city and
halfway through them explaining the tourist was switched and the
local had no idea.
Example: When you are driving you unconsciously swerve your car
to avoid hitting a cyclist.
When you are looking for change you might not see it.
Benefits of top-down directed attention.
Demonstrates that noticeable changes in the environment often go
unnoticed even when we are looking for them.
Example: You are looking for your keys, you may fail to notice them
when they are right in front of you.
Focus moves towards different stimuli and when in the focus of the