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Attention - 1 Overview

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PSYC 330
Richard Wright

1 - Overview Attention January-08-13 9:48 AM I. What is attention • Focusing on certain stimuli, blocking other stimuli ○ Commondefinition ○ "Everybodyknows what attention is" (William James)  We all have a sense of what it is, but it's hard to pin down • Attention is an umbrella term ○ There are different aspects to attention, but we may refer to some/all of it • Metaphors ○ Attention is like a filter  e.g., Listening to one person talk while others are talking ○ Attention is like a switch board:  shifting attention between different stimuli ○ Attention is like a battery:  Limited resource  As you become more practiced at something, it requires less attention --> more attention left over to focus on other things ○ Attention is like a spot light  Which part of the scene/object are you focused on  It can move from one thing to another ○ Attention is like glue:  Allows you to combine features of different objects, so that you can group them  e.g., only look at colour of different toys • Attention is everydaylife ○ We're familiar with it ○ Weapon focus:  when robbed at gun point, the focus tends to be on the gun --> hard to describe perpetrator at a later time ○ Where's Waldo: harder to find for children & elderly ○ Multitask:  Easier if task is easy (motor, automatic)  Harder if task involves comprehension, reading, etc.  e.g., driving & texting --> NO.  Handheld/hands-free doesn't really make a difference…  Passenger appreciates the situations driver is in (e.g., may stop talking when turning left) • Intrinsic awareness of attention capacities ○ Not like it boomed recently. We always had a sense of our attention limitations (intrinsically) ○ e.g., mammothhunting as a group  Kick out the one who's distracting the spear guy! "Shut. Up." ○ May be looking at one person, but listening to another conversation II. Early thinking and study of attention • A central issue in philosophy ○ Ancient Greek wroteabout attention  Aristotle  Descartes(mind wandering)  Wolff (18th century; pretty much wrote a textbook --> there must be a field)  Helmholtz (spotlight, mind wandering)  Wundt (1880;attn. processing; influenced the boom in empirical psychology)
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