PSY270H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Visual Search, Inattentional Blindness, Distracted Driving

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Published on 24 Jan 2019
PSY270 Lecture 3 Attention
Theories of Attention
Everyone knows what attention is, but nobody can define it
There are several theories of the mechanisms of attention; each one explains
how attention is used under different circumstances
Attention as a filter → selective attention
Attention is a spotlight → vigilance
Attention as a mental resource → divided attention
Attention as a feature binder → visual search
Attention is the process of concentrating mental effort on sensory or mental
Attention has a limited capacity
There are many different types of attention but they all vary along certain
Exogenous - erdonegous
Exogenous: something in environment captures our attention
Salience is particularly important
Endogenous: we decide what to attend to, could be internal or
Most closely linked to eye movements, quite a close link between
attention and eye movements
Question of whether attention moves when our eyes move
Overt: we pay attention to what we’re looking at, other people
know what we’re paying attention to
Covert: we are not looking at what we are attending, so other
people don’t know what we are paying attention to
If you want to eavesdrop the conversation next to you, you
can shift your attention to listen without moving your eyes
Automatic tasks don’t require attention, controlled tasks do
Attention is driven by stimulus saliency
Motion: particularly salience stimulus, our visual system is designed to be
very attentive to motion
Attention can be driven by other “important” information and previous knowledge
Attention is very goal specific, whatever our goal is we can focus our
attention to achieve that goal
Can also use past knowledge to focus our attention
Attention is closely linked to consciousness but they are not synonymous
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Change blindness
Link between attention and consciousness, if you’re not really
paying attention, you won’t notice if there is a change, you are not
consciously aware of the physical attributes
Inattentional blindness
We attend what is important
Ex: if a person approaches us on the street, it is not important
enough for us to pay attention to who they are
Filter Theories of Attention
Dichotic listening task
Broadbent first proposed a theory of auditory attention based on results of
dichotic listening tasks
Unattentive message into one year, attentive message into
another year
People are good at paying attention to message in one ear only - i.e.
people are good at selective attending
People noticed sensory information in unattended ear
Ex: could report if it was a male voice or female voice or if it was a
human talking or machine talking even though they were told to
ignore that signal
People did not notice the meaning of the message in the unattended ear,
unless the message was very brief
True even if the language of the message switched, and if the
same word was repeated over and over again, nothing about the
content could be reported
Broadbent’s Early Selection Filter Model
Input → sensory memory (place for sensory information to be
stored) → filter (pick out one item)→ detector → long -term
1. People are aware of their own name in an unattended
2. Participants ‘follow’ a meaningful message in the
unattended ear
People follow a message in dichotic listening tasks,
meaning if someone is doing a dichotic listening
task an the message moves from one ear to the
next, participants follow the message instead of
what they hear in one ear
Treisman's Attenuation Model
All sensory input comes in, and it might be stored in sensory memory,
then instead of going into an attention filter, it goes into an attention
attenuator, sort of like a volume control, attention adjusts the intensity of
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