Compare and contrast early vs late selection models of attention. How well do they explain how we selectively attend to information?
Attention was described by William James (1890, cited in Eysenck & Keane, 2000, p130) as “the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form , of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalisation, concentration of consciousness are of its essence.” This definition emphasises how attention is thought of as a selective process. It seems clear from common sense that we cannot attend to all stimuli at once, so some kind of selection must take place as to what information we attend to and process further, and what is disregarded. Since the 1950’s, there has been a great deal of research into selective attention, both auditory and visual. Several different theories and models of selective attention have been proposed. One central and on-going debate in attention research has been that between early and late selection theories, i.e. at what stage of processing a stimulus does selection occur? This essay will compare and contrast early and late selection models of attention The main examples used to illustrate similarities and differences will be Broadbent’s (1958) filter theory model (as cited in Driver, 2001) which was the first cognitive model of auditory attention, and an extreme example of early selection,(and the rival late selection model proposed by Deutsch & Deutsch (1963) . It will then go on to evaluate these along with other models as including Treisman’s (1960, as cited in Driver, 2001) attenuation model, as to how well they are able to explain the phenomenon of selective attention. Both early and late selection models of selective attention were originally derived from research into auditory attention, attempting to explain how the human auditory system is able to process mixed Various dichotic listening experiments were conducted (Driver, 2001; Naish, 2010), in which participants had different messages played into each ear and were asked to shadow, i.e. repeat the message from just one ear. (They would then be asked questions regarding what they remembered from the message which had been played into the other, non-shadowed ear. In most cases it was found that participants could remember almost nothing about the message in the non-shadowed, i.e. unattended ear) Driver (2001, p55) demonstrates how both early and late selection models can be represented as very simple two stage flow diagrams, illustrating how different early and late models of selective attention all appear to be based on Broadbent’s (1958, as cited in Driver, 2001) original filter theory. Both early and late selection models can be thought of as having a selective filter or bottleneck (McLeod, 2007; Eysenck & Keane, 2000), which extracts the attended information for further processing while filtering out irrelevant (unattended) information. Both types of model assume that initial processing of all stimuli takes place in parallel, prior to the bottleneck filter, after which the selected information is thought to undergo deeper, serial processing. The main difference between early and late selection models is the position of the bottleneck. Broadbent’s (1958, as cited in Driver, 2001) model assumes that the bottleneck occurs very early in processing, (near to the stimulus end if the model is represented as a flow diagram) it is assumed that only simple physical properties of a stimulus are extracted in the parallel pre-attentive stage prior to filtering, therefore the unattended stimulus does not undergo any processing for meaning, but only for simple physical characteristics, e.g. the location of the speaker or whether the voice was male or female. These simple physical characteristics are all that can usually be remembered about the unattended message by participants in dichotic listening tasks. Broadbent (1954, as cited in Naish, 2010)...
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