Research carried out on attention has mainly been associated with the selective processing of incoming sensory information. It proposes, to some degree, our awareness of the world depends on what we choose to focus on and not simply the stimulation received by our senses. Attention is often linked to a filter that screens out most potential stimuli whilst allowing a select few to pass through into our conscious awareness, however, a great deal of debate has been devoted to where the filter is situated in the information processing chain (Martindale, 1991). Psychologists have made extensive contributions to this subject matter in the past century. Notable examples include Donald Broadbent's filter theory of attention (1958), which set the agenda for most subsequent work, and Anne Treisman's (1964) modifications of this description, the Attenuation Model (Driver J, 2001). This paper will look at the theories of Broadbent, Deutsch and Deutsch and Treisman and will evaluate their attentional selection models and the theorists attempt to pinpoint the location of the attentional filter. Broadbent’s model advocated the early selection theory, whereas Treisman disagreed on the location of the attentional filter and favoured a more flexible approach. A further model, which was appropriately named late selection, differs from the early and flexible selection model and was instigated by theorists such as Deutsch and Deutsch (1963) and Norman (1968). The three theories have differing opinions mainly over whether the filtering takes place early or late in the information processing chain (Gross, 2005). Broadbent's, Treisman's and Deutsch and Deutsch Models of Attention are all bottleneck models, in that they predict we cannot intentionally attend to all of our sensory input at the same time. Each of these models endeavours to explain how the information that passes through the bottleneck is selected. When an individual is presented with two or more simultaneous messages and is instructed to process and respond to just one of them, this process is known as attentional selection. The most popular way to measure this is through the process of shadowing, a dichotic listening technique which involves the participant repeating aloud everything that is heard in one ear. Cherry (1953) used this technique first when studying the “cocktail party phenomenon” in which individuals manage to select one or two voices to listen to from multiple conversations taking place at the same time and in the same environment (Gross, 2005). Cherry’s participants "shadowed," or instantly repeated, prose heard through one ear, whilst ignoring further speech which was being presented to the other ear. All participants were able to identify prose from the unattended ear as human speech, but no one was able to give a description of words or phrases that was exposed to the unattended ear, or the fact the voice had changed from English to German (Wood, & Cowan, 1995).In an attempt to explain Cherry’s findings Broadbent (1958) conceived the “Early selection filter model”.
Broadbent’s model suggests that individuals have a restricted capacity to process information. Broadbent states that information arrives through sensory channels and is retained for a brief period in the sensory memory. It is proposed that two stimuli offered at the same time obtain access to the sensory buffer (Eysenck, & Keane, 2010). The selective filter is used to block unwanted input and let through only those messages that warrant full cognitive analysis (Lachman, Lachman, & Butterfield, 1979).Information is selected on the basis of its physical characteristics for further processing by being allowed to pass through the filter. The general consensus is that, as humans, we have only a restricted capability of processing information, therefore, this filter is designed to prevent the information-processing...
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