PSYC213-Chapter 4 Notes.docx

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21 Apr 2012
Chapter 4: Attention
Selective Attention
- Dichotic listening: participants listen to two messages simultaneously, and
required to answer questions posed in only one of the messages
- Selective attention: attending to relevant info and ignoring irrelevant info
- Cocktail party phenomenon: ability to attend to one convo in a crowded room
- Shadowing task: expose subject to two messages simultaneously, ask them to
repeat one of the messages as it is heard
- Filter: admits some messages but blocks others
- Selective looking: watch two simultaneous events, but attend only to one
o Found that people were able to do this easily
- Results from dichotic listening and selective looking support the early selection
view of attention: attention prevents early perceptual processing of distractors
o Participant does not see or hear irrelevant info
- Late selection: both relevant and irrelevant info are perceived, so the person must
actively ignore irrelevant stimuli to focus on relevant ones
- The Stroop Task
o Tendency to read name interferes with attempt to name colour
o Compare performance in incongruent condition (i.e. ‘red’ is printed in
green) vs. control (i.e. ‘XXX’ is printed in green)
o Illustrates controlled vs. automatic processes: processes that we have to
pay attention in order to execute properly vs. processes that run without
the necessity of our paying attention to them
Automatic = bottom-up, stimulus-driven, involuntary
Controlled= top-down, goal-oriented, voluntary
o Raz gave participants the post-hypnotic suggestion that any words they
saw would look like those in an unknown foreign language and ‘you will
not attempt to attribute any meaning to them’
Asked to name the colours of the ‘meaningless’ words, but were
actually being given a standard Stroop task with English words
Highly suggestible patients did not show the typical Stroop effect,
although the less suggestible participants did
Cognitive processes considered to be automatic are susceptible to
top-down influences
o Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC): area of the brain that may exert a
top-down bias that favours the selection of task-relevant info
Prefrontal areas are thought to provide a top-down bias
o Anterior cingulated cortex (ACC): area of the brain that may detect
conflicting response tendencies of the sort that the Stroop task elicits
- Attention Capture and Inattentional Blindness
o Attention capture: power of some stimuli to elicit attention in spite of the
fact that we did not intend to pay attention to them
o Inattentional blindness: failure to attend to events we are expected to
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In a study by Mack and Rock, many participants who were judging
the relative line lengths of a cross failed to see the black square in
one of the quadrants
However, happy face was detected 85% of the time
Faces attract attention more than other stimuli
Silhouettes of human bodies > silhouettes of other objects
o Flanker task: an experiment in which participants may be influenced by an
irrelevant stimulus beside the target
Incongruent condition: participants have to search for the name of
a celebrity (i.e. ‘Michael Jackson’) that was presented either by
itself or in a list of letter strings while a picture of Bill Clinton was
presented to the side
Congruent condition: search for name of celebrity (i.e. ‘Michael
Jackson’) while picture of Michael Jackson presented on the side
Participants told to ignore face and press a key when they had
identified the name as either belonging to a celebrity or a politician
Longer lists = longer to identify name correctly
Incongruent conditions take longer than congruent ones, showing
that faces on the side interfered with RT
Size of this distractor effect was the same at all levels of list
However, not the case in another study that used names of
musical instruments or fruits as task difficulty increases,
faces are still distractors, but musical instruments and fruits
are not
o Domain-specific modules: parts of brain may be specialized
o Our expectancies guide our exploration of the enviro, but the enviro is
capable of influencing our experience of it
Dual Tasks and the Limits of Attention
- Capacity model: attention is like a power supply that can support only a limited
amount of attentional activity
- Attention may have structural limits: tasks interfere with one another if they share
similar activities (i.e. both visual or both verbal)
- Some theories see attention as involving a central processor: we can only pay
attention to one thing at a time; if another task is added, central processor has to
switch from one task to another
o Central bottleneck: only one path through which info relevant to only one
task at a time can pass
Doing two things at once requires alternating attention
Divided attention: ability to attend to more than one thing
at a time
- Neisser taught students to read and take notes at the same time
o Found that participants genuinely understood what they were writing
while they were reading
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