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PSYCH 1X03 Lecture Notes - Mike Posner, Emergency Vehicle, Dazed

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Joe Kim

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Attention allows you to navigate through a crowded world brimming with
information and distractions.
Without the ability to focus your limited processing resources, you wouldn’t be able
to carry on a meaningful conversation, enjoy a piece of music, understand a joke or
learn new things.
William James defines attention as, “Everyone knows what attention is. It is the
taking possession by the mind in the clear and vivid 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 effectively with others, and is a condition, which
has a real opposite in the confused, dazed and scatterbrained state.
At the centre of the definition is Selection attending to something causes the
object of attention to be selected apart from the rest of the unattended objects. i.e.
when you first put clothes on, you feel them touch your skin, but as the day goes by
these stimuli fade into the background as other stimuli are competing for your
Attention also refers to our conscious ability to attend to the information that is
relevant to our goals. i.e. walking thru a grocery store you are actively selecting
where to focus your attention.
We are remarkably adept at distinguishing the relevant from the irrelevant
information in the environment. i.e. driving thru busy traffic becomes more difficult
as you talk on the phone.
Automatic and Controlled Attention
Automatic Processes- triggered involuntarily by external events and triggers
the “capture” of attention.
o Assumed to operate in fast, efficient and obligatory matter.
o Recall from unit two on learning that some cues seem to be more
noticeable and lead to stronger and quicker association with paired
events salience.
A salient piece of information is one that appears to naturally
pop-out at you. i.e. loud signals and lights of emergency vehicle.
o Second type of automatic process related to learning driving a car is a
learned motor skill involving many steps. After practice it is easy to
operate a vehicle to the point where some people report to have
“automatic driving experiences” where they plan to go one place but
accidently end up somewhere else.
Controlled Processes- guide attention voluntarily and consciously to object of
o Assumed to require cognitive effort and therefore will operate more
o Driving a car thru busy traffic - you consciously choose to pay attention
to the many aspects of the environment to guide this goal-directed
behavior. Here you are using flexible controlled processes involved in
conscious attention as you choose when to make lane changes, speed up,
slow down, and engage in a conversation or change the radio station.
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