Cherry's Notion of Selective Attention

Topics: Attention, Working memory, Cognitive psychology Pages: 5 (1700 words) Published: March 14, 2013
Cherry's notion of selective attention explains how people follow what they want to hear in spite of several distractions. He refers to this phenomenon as the cocktail party effect. He studied this in a laboratory controlled experiment using the shadowing technique. An auditory message was presented to one ear of the participants over headphones whilst a simultaneous distractor message was presented to the other ear. The participants had to 'shadow', i.e, ignore the distractor message while repeating the other message. He observed that participants did that task remarkable. When asked about the distractor message, they could only verbally report on the physical features of the irrelevant message such as gender of the speaker or change in tone. However, when the language of the unattended message was changed, the participants could not notice this. This type of message presentation, i.e., two different message at the same time is called dichotic presentation. Binaural presentation in the other hand is the presentation of the same two messages to both ears. When this was tested, Cherry found that the participants could not shadow one message contrary to the dichotic presentation. The conclusion is that unattended message receives minimal processing. Cherry showed that attention can be focused at one thing only. Every other distractions in the entourage is processed to a minimal for us not. If our brain was like a vacuum, accumulating all that the environment provides us, our brain would go haywire, not knowing what is important. In other words, Cherry showed we control the brain to listen to what we want to listen and not to everything that is present. Although Cherry's article presented an interesting new technique for experimenting with attention, and suggested a connection between focused attention and the physical features of material that was being attended to, it did not attempt an explanation of his results. As a result, later research that made use of dichotic listening tasks was often more focused on the effects of the task than in the cognitive processes involved in attending to one set of stimuli over another. Although Cherry's work paved the way for future research in attention, an actual theory describing its mechanisms and processes had yet to be developed. Cherry's work is in congruence with Broadbent's information processing stages. These stages are a sensory store, for information in its original sensory form ; a filter, in which part of attention in which some perceptual information is blocked out and not recognized, while other information is attended to and recognized ; Pattern Recognition, the stage in which a stimulus is recognized; the Selection stage, that determines what information a person will try to remember; Short-Term Memory, memory with limited capacity, that lasts for about 20-30 seconds without attending to its content; Long-Term Memory, which has no capacity limit and lasts from minutes to a lifetime. Neville Moray studied Cherry's theory and found out that there is some exceptions to it. Using shadowing experiments, Moray showed that when the small set of words was repeated to the unattended ear, recognition memory for those words were very poor, even after a few seconds of presentation. If the unshadowed words had received attention, they should have been easily recognisable. Moray found out that listeners often recognised their own name when it was presented to the unattended ear. This is quite contradictory to the notion of a selective filter that only allowed input to the serial, limited capacity channel on the basis of physical attributes. Moray's result suggest that there is more analysis of unattended information than Cherry thought. Previously it was stated that it is only when information gains access to the limited capacity system that the subject becomes consciously aware of its occurrence. Moray's result show that there is more analysis of unattended message than was previously...
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