James' definition emphasizes two important aspects of attention:
1. That attention implies a suppression of information at unattended locations
○ What does that mean?
Info not relevant to the task at hand right now
Some sort of gate that shuts of information that is trying to get into your mind.
Other side: when you intentionally select something, boost it somehow, enhance it for the purposes
□ Selection can mean both of these things.
2. That attention is a selection of some information for enhanced perception or mental operations.
"Paying attention" = vigilance
- How the mind can select some sub groove of information out of all the information you could possibly perceive,
then you have to ask yourself what the consequencesare of selection, and how you choose your selection.
Learning about attention by pushing the limits
- Ulrich Neisser in the 1960's
- Simons & Levin in the 1990's
○ Tracking one moving object out of many
○ Something that's there, and it's available to be seen, but it isn't noticed (like when someone is driving)
- A tale of bottlenecks and basketballs
○ You can't do much processing of info without attention
Brain needs to know when to disengage attention to focus on something else (video of gorilla and
To your brain - that wasn't a gorilla. It became a gorilla after you paid attention to it. What it was, was
a vague shade of black blob
□ Didn't become something meaningful and important until your attention was applied to it.
Two distinct processes
- Orienting - shifting attention (usually in space, but alto non-spatial feature such as pitch)
○ Turn your head and look at something
○ Shift attention in frequencies, rather than geographically too
- Selection - what attention does to perception
Often confused and used interchangeably
We'll switch back and forth, but we'll try to keep them separate
1. The consequencesof selection
○ Information thoery
Around 1950's - Psychologists began to think of the human perceptualmechanisms as "information
□ Worked for a phone company, AT&T and Bell labs.
□ Did a bunch of early cognitive psychology that's really important
□ Curious how you could mix conversations on the phone lines (remember party lines?)
Attend to the right conversation, there might not be a problem
Not enough proper cables
◊ Less complicated, but harder to do back then
□ Human perception: information capacity.
Why capacity of info? Because of different revolution in psychology .
The notion that you could think of information formally
□ Began asking questions such as how much information can the human mind handle at once?"
How much data? Bandwidth? Without losing clarity of signal.
What if you drop bits and pieces of the signal? What if you drop bits and pieces of the signal?
Donald Broadbent - earliest systematic investigations of selective attention
□ Still informative/relevant to this day.
□ Before era of usable/useful computers.
After an image for a sho