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Chapter 4

PSY270H1 Chapter 4: Week 7 Notes

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David Chan

A model that came off Broadbent’s theory of attention called attenuation model of attention. You have two different messages coming in to both ears (one attended, one unattended). The attenuator analyzes the information in terms of its physical characteristics, what language it is in, and its meaning. Using these 3 characteristics in order (only need physical usually but can use language and meaning if the physical is similar) you separate both messages. The attended message passes much better than the unattended message. They then both go through the dictionary unit which is a memory storage that contains all the words you possibly know and each word has a minimum threshold for being activated. Words that are more important to you (your name, danger signals, etc.) have a smaller threshold. This model was created because we know that when we’re talking to someone we filter out the background noise and are unaware of what is being said however if our name is called we somehow notice it. Also they did an experiment where in one ear you give the person the attended message “Dear 7 Jane” and the unattended message as “9 Aunt 6”. They end up hearing Dear Aunt Jane as opposed to Dear 7 Jane. Another model was presented because of this experiment: Present P’s with an attended and unattended message. The attended message would be an ambiguous sentence like “They were throwing stones at the bank” (bank can either mean a river or the money place) and the unattended message would be a word biased towards one of the meaning (either “bank” or “river”). Then they gave P’s another pair of attended and unattended messages (ex. “They threw stones toward the side of the river yesterday” and “They threw stones at the savings and loan association yesterday”) and asked to choose which sentence was closest in meaning to the sentence in the pair of messages before. Depending on which biased word was used in the first set determined which sentence they would choose in the second set. This means that both the attended and unattended message were processed in terms of their meaning which led to the late selection models of attention (most of the incoming information is processed to the level of meaning before the message to be further processed is selected). The reason why adding a dog logo increases reaction time is explained by the load theory of attention. Basically tasks that are low load (use few cognitive resources) leave resources available to process unattended task-irrelevant stimuli. High load tasks leave no extra resources and so any distractions in your environment won’t actually affect your performance because you have no resources to attend to them (this explains the example at the beginning of this chapter where talking in the library didn’t distract him from doing his hard math homework and yet the talking distracted him from playing his easy game. However, the ability to ignore task-irrelevant stimuli is a function of not only the load of the task you are doing but also how powerful the task-irrelevant stimulus is (ex. a fire alarm would attract your attention). People notice stop signs more when they are placed in their usual spot (the corner of the intersection) rather than in the middle of the road. Also the most fixations occurred when near an intersection rather than just driving along a regular road with no intersection nearby. This shows how cognitive factors based on knowledge of the environment influence attention. When carrying out tasks that involve a series of steps (like making a sandwich), eye movements/shifts in attention occur in relation to the steps of action (you need to take out the bread from the bag first so that’s where your eye movements will go first, you need to open the peanut butter jar second so that’s where your eye movements will do second). The purpose of this next experiment is to determine whether presenting a cue indicating where a test stimulus will appear enhances the processing of the target stimulus. P’s were asked to fixate on the crosshairs. Then an arrow will show up telling to focus their attention on a particular side (but don’t move your eyes, stay focused on the crosshairs). Press a button when the target appears. The experimenters made 20% of the trials “invalid” (lying as to where the stimulus will be) and 80% “valid” (pointing the arrow in the same direction where the stimulus will appear). Results showed that reaction times were faster when their attention was focused on the location where the target was to appear. This was interpreted in that information processing is more effective at the place where attention is directed. This is a similar experiment to the last one. The target is the grey box. Reaction times are faster when the target is in the same spot as where attention is focused (we saw result in the last experiment). But more interestingly, when the target is instead shown at B or C, the reaction time is faster at B. This can’t be because B is closer to A then C is closer to A (because B and C are both equidistant to A). Rather, B’s advantage occurs because it is located within the object that was receiving the subject’s attention. Attending at A, where the cue was presented, causes the maximum effect at A, but the effect of this attention spreads throughout the object so some enhancement occurs at B as well (called the same-object advantage). The subject was shown a memory set consisting of one to four numbers called target stimuli. The memory set was followed by rapid presentation of 20 “test frames,” each of which contained distractors. On half of the trials, one of the frames contained a
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