PSYC 2410 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Change Blindness, Dependent And Independent Variables, Handsfree

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Cognitive Psychology: Chapter 4
Selective Attention
- Selective attention refers to the skill through which one focuses on one input or one task while ignoring other
stimuli
- Attention studies sometimes employ a task known as shadowing
Using headphones, different information is presented to each ear. This is known as dichotic listening
The participant pays attention to the information presented to one ear (the attended channel) while
ignoring information presented to the other (the unattended channel)
- Results from these studies suggest that unusual characteristics of the unattended channel go unnoticed
- Similar effects happen in visual studies (Ex. In a classic study, participants asked to count the number of
basketball passes)
- There are some important exceptions, where certain pieces of information will be unnoticed even if the
presented to the unattended channel
The participants own name, or any words of high personal significance, will be noticed even in the
unattended channel
- This pattern is observed in real-life situations and sometimes called the cocktail party effect
- Sometimes effects of attention are so strong that we fail to see stimuli that are directly in front of our eyes
- For instance, if participants are asked to look at a fixation target while attending to another part of the screen,
they may fail to notice changes in shape to the fixation target. This phenomenon is known as inattentional
blindness
- From studies of inattentional blindness, one might be tempted to conclude that there is “no perception without
attention”
- However, other studies demonstrate that unconscious perception still occurs in the absence of attention
- For example, participants’ judgements of line length are influenced by the presence of “fins” that cause the
Muller-Lyer illusion, even if they do not consciously see the fins
- Other studies of attention focus on a phenomenon known as change blindness, the inability of observers to
detect changes in scenes they are looking directly at
- We recognize things more easily when it’s in the middle of the scene, and not in the periphery
- Similar effects of change blindness occur when people fail to notice continuity errors in films
- In a particularly striking example, participants failed to notice when the person asking them for directions
changed identity (following a brief interruption by two people carrying a door)
- Each study of attention focused on when the perceiver selects the desired input
- According to the early-selection hypothesis, the unattended input receives little to no analysis
- According to the late-selection hypothesis, all input receives analysis but only the attended input reaches
consciousness or is remembered
- Both early- and late-selection hypotheses capture part of the truth
For instance, the study discussed earlier showing that unattended stimuli have effects on perception
seems to be a case of late selection
However, the electrical activity of the brain for attended versus unattended inputs differs within 70ms
of stimulus presentation, suggesting early selection
- An experiment by Posner and Snyder (1975) illustrates that there are two kinds of priming related to attention
- One kind of priming is stimulus-based (repetition-based priming), the other is expectation-based (basically ready
for the stimulus, waiting for it to happen)
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Document Summary

Selective attention refers to the skill through which one focuses on one input or one task while ignoring other stimuli. Attention studies sometimes employ a task known as shadowing. Using headphones, different information is presented to each ear. The participant pays attention to the information presented to one ear (the attended channel) while ignoring information presented to the other (the unattended channel) Results from these studies suggest that unusual characteristics of the unattended channel go unnoticed. Similar effects happen in visual studies (ex. In a classic study, participants asked to count the number of basketball passes) There are some important exceptions, where certain pieces of information will be unnoticed even if the presented to the unattended channel. The participants own name, or any words of high personal significance, will be noticed even in the unattended channel. This pattern is observed in real-life situations and sometimes called the cocktail party effect.

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