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PSY270H1 (100)
Chapter

Attention


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSY270H1
Professor
Gillian Rowe

Page:
of 12
Attention
Is the process of concentrating on specific features of the environment, thought, or
activities. This leads to exclusion of other features of the environment and affects what
we are aware of. It involves engagement of the mind, which in turn affects our
experience. Thus it affects perception, memory, language, and problem solving. Attention
facilitates reactions to events and situations, which can be influenced by various factors
(Simon effect). It involves automatic and controlled processes.
There are three types of attention
1) Sustained (vigilance)
2) Selective (auditory and visual)
3) Divided
Sustained Attention
Is the process of continuously monitoring an environment in order to detect target signals
(change). Examples of this would be life guards on duty and air-traffic control.
Selective Attention
Is the ability to focus on one message and ignore all others.
Early experiments showed that it is difficult to take in 2 messages at the same time. This
type of research was done on Dichotic Listening; where a message is presented to left
ear and another into the right. Participants often could only attend one message while
ignoring the other (the unattended message). They also tried trials where the attended
message was repeated out loud as it was being given (this is called shadowing). In these
trials, when participants were asked about the unattended message they said they knew it
was there and the gender of the speaker and the tone of voice, but nothing more.
Cherry's experiment about the cocktail party phenomenon also proves the selective
nature of our attention
Early Selection
Fitter Model
(Created by Broudbent)
It is also known as the early selection model
It describes humans as information processors and depicts the flow of information with a
flow diagram. Its purpose is to explain selective attention.
1. Sensory Memory: holds incoming information for a second and then transferes it
to the next stage.
2. Filter: Identifies attended message based on physical characteristics. Lets only this
kind of information go to the detector stage and filters everything else out.
3. Detector: processes information to determine the high level characteristics like
meaning. Process everything it receives.
4. Short-Term Memory: receives detectors output. Holds it for about 10-15sec then
moves it to LTM (if the information is rehearsed or controlled, or dumps it out if it is
not taken care of).
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The key to this theory is that filtering occurs before information is analyzed.
The left and right ears were considered separate channels at first, and people were
concerned about how information is taken in from these two channels under different
conditions.
Split-scan experiment
Was done in order to find out. In this experiment, letters were represented to the left
and right ears. Participants were asked to either (a) report the letters in any order or
(b) asked to repeat the pair of letters in the order each was presented. In the trials
with task A, participants reported all the letters they heard in 1 ear and then in the
other (researchers reasoned that this was because it was efficient to switch between
channels at the end and not back and forth). There was a high percentage of
correctness. In trails with task B, participants found it more difficult. Researchers
reasoned that this was because they had to switch between channels. There was only
2% correctness.
The problem with this theory (early selection – filter model) is that
it does not explain the cocktail phenomenon. This phenomenon
proves that there is basically enough information processed in the
unattended ear to give the listener awareness of the stimulus
meaning. As the dear Aunt Jane experiment shows, the unattended
ear seems to process some semantic information.
Dear Aunt Jane Experiment
Shows that participants switched from one ear to the other
depending on the meaning of the words. Basically, people
unconsciously switched attention to the unattended ear because
that channel provided a good continuation of the message heard in
the attended ear.
Attenuation Theory
Intermediate - selection model (leaky filter model)
Produced by Triesman. In this theory, selection occurs in 2 stages.
According to this, the attended message can be separated from the unattended message
early on in the information processing system. Selection can also occur later on.
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