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Lecture 11

PSYCH 1X03 Lecture 11: Attention

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McMaster University
Joe Kim

PSYCH 1X03 Attention Definitions: th • William James – 19 century psychologist: The taking possession by the mind in clear form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought…it implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effec- tively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state.” • Attention also refers to our conscious ability to attend to the information that is relevant to our goals Selection: attending to something causes the object of attention to be selected apart from the rest of the unattended objects • Some stimuli in the environment can trigger your attention in an automatic fash- ion e.g. a flashing light • We are very good at distinguishing the relevant from the irrelevant information (noise that can make it difficult to identify and attend to important information). However, sometimes noise overwhelms the signal and distraction occurs Automatic and ControlledAttention • Automatic Processes o Triggered involuntarily by external events o Trigger the “capture” of attention o Operate in a fast, efficient and obligatory manner o Salience: notion that some cues seem to be more noticeable and lead to stronger and quicker association when paired with events.Asalient piece of information is one that appears to naturally pop-out at you o Automatic processes can lead to the body learning to do a series of steps without much effort e.g. driving • Controlled Processes o Guide attention voluntarily and consciously to objects of interest o Operate more slowly because they require more cognitive effort o It is difficult to consciously attend to many aspects of the task-environ- ment at the same time because the resources for controlled processes are limited The Spotlight Model • Psychologist Michael Posner proposed that the attentional spotlight only focuses on one part of the environment at a time • As your attention moves around your field of vision, objects falling within the spotlight are processed preferentially o You can respond to objects faster (shorter reaction time) and with greater accuracy ▯1 Attention Module Notes PSYCH 1X03 Cuing paradigms • Used to try to determine whether manipulating attention can influence behaviour • Experiment: subject is asked to fixate on the center of the computer monitor and determine whether a start appears in the box to the left or right o Before the star appears, one of the two boxes flashes, however the box that flashes may or may not be the one that will contain the start. When the star appeared in the box that flashed, subjects responded more quickly than if the start appeared in the other box o This result suggests that the flashing box automatically attracts the atten- tional spotlight to the cued location • If a target appears in the cued location, then attention will amplify the perceptual processing of that target and it will be detected quickly • If the target appears in the uncued location, the target will be detected more slow- ly because the attentional spotlight will have been directed away from the actual target location o The effect remains even if the target appears on the screen for so little time that the eye has not had time to look in its direction o Attention can shift faster than the eye Filter Model • Shadowing Paradigm– Colin Cherry o Subjects were asked to listen to two different messages played from a sin- gle loudspeaker at the same time o Subjects tried to separate the messages, repeating one but not the other, in a so called “shadowing” task o Revealed that the ability to separate target sounds from background noise is based on physical characteristics, such as the gender of the speaker and the direction, pitch or speed of the speech o Inspired cognitive model that compares attention processes to a filter which sifts away distractions and only allows important information through Filter Model vs. Spotlight Model: Examining a Flower in a Field of Grass • Spotlight Model: attention would enhance the processing of the single flower rel- ative to the grass • Filter Model: attention helps us ignore the grass and allows the flower to continue on for further processing Broadbent’s Single Filter Model • Attentional filter selects important information on the basis of physical character- istics and allows that information to continue on for further processing
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