Mechanisms of Attention: Monitoring and Noticing Information

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  • Topic: Attention, Feature integration theory, Binding problem
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CH 3 Mechanisms of Attention: Monitoring and Noticing Information I. Attention: What Is It?

A. Basic Characteristics

1-Limited capacity

− Visual attention limits are described with a spotlight metaphor

− Auditory attention limits are described with gateway metaphor

2- Flexibility

− Easily shift attention based on situational demands

3- Voluntary control

− We can control how we direct our attention

B. Pre-Attentive vs. Post-Attentive Processing

Pre-attentive processing- Happens before the focus of attention is brought to a stimulus. It occurs quickly (without thinking).

Post-attentive processing- occurs after the focus of attention has been brought to a stimulus. It is slow and effortful.

Example:

Enumeration: The ability to accurately determine the number of presented items

Subitizing: The quick and effortless (i.e., pre-attentive) enumeration of a small number of objects (0-4)

Above 4 involves “counting,” which is a slow and effortful (i.e., post-attentive) enumeration process

Attentional involvement is gauged by noting how reaction time (RT) varies with the number of items in a visual display.

◘ Pre-attentive process

← RT does not increase as the number of items increases

◘ Post-attentive process

← RT increases as the number of items increases

II. Visual Attention

A. Types of Visual Attention

-Goal-driven attention

-Stimulus-driven attention

Goal-driven attention: Focusing attention based on previous knowledge, goals, or expectations (i.e., top-down processing).

Space-Based Attention: Focusing attention on a specific spatial location (like shining a spotlight).

● Areas within central attentional focus receive the most thorough processing

● Areas in the periphery receive more diffuse processing

Feature Integration vs. Guided Search

● Problems with two-stage assumption of feature integration theory

− Some conjunction searches have been found to be as fast as feature searches

◘ Not possible if binding multiple features is a post-attentive process (stage 2)

◘ Stages are proposed to be distinct and noninteractive

◘ No information gained from stage 1 is used in stage 2

● Guided search: Emphasizes role of the pre-attentive search (stage 1) in guiding the post-attentive search (stage 2).

B. Limits in Visual Attention

Low-Target Prevalence: Searching for targets that rarely occur

The Attentional Blink: The period of time after the detection of a stimulus during which another stimulus cannot be detected.

Limits in visual attention are attenuated when processing visual stimuli -Change Blindness (or Inattentional Blindness)
-Failure to notice obvious changes or events in the environment

C. Cultural Differences
In a visual scene:
Western cultures emphasize central objects and deemphasize the background Eastern cultures emphasize the background and deemphasize central objects

Nisbett and Masuda (2003)

Because of these culture differences, they found:

✓ Eastern cultures were more likely to notice changes in the background than in central objects

✓ Western cultures were more likely to notice changes in central objects than in the background

Magic and Misdirection of Attention

● Magicians manipulate attention to prevent noticing an action relevant to the trick

− Stimulus-driven attention: draw audience attention to something salient, but irrelevant to the trick

− Goal-driven attention: engage audience in an attention demanding task

III. Auditory Attention

● Analogy is a gateway that only allows some information into conscious awareness

A. Selective Attention

Selective attention tasks

− Multiple inputs are presented and must respond to some and ignore others

Attenuation...
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