Describe the Process of Selective Attention and How It Affects Consumers.

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It has been estimated that the average person may be exposed to over 1,500 ads or brand communications a day[1] The brain is limited to absorb only a certain amount of information at once therefore consumers brains use a screen-out process called ‘selective attention’.

This is the process by which consumers screen out some ideas, information, and messages, but take in or retain others, which they then interpret according to their personal experience, self-concept, attitudes, beliefs, and other factors.[2]

In early selective theories, Donald Broadbent (1958) proposed a ‘bottleneck’ concept where it was thought we can only process a limited amount of information because the size of the channel is limited and once the channel is full, the rest of the information is filtered out.[3]

Later the Deutsch & Deutsch (1963) theory proposed that all information is absorbed but quickly forgotten unless they hold importance to the person.[4] This was further supported by the theory from Anne Treisman (1969) that proposed information that is not held in that primary channel is not discarded but held in a second channel where, if something considerable occurs, people can switch their attention to this second channel.

A good example given is you are in a room full of people, where there are a dozen simultaneous conversations. You will filter out most of what is being said to focus on your conversation. But if your name is mentioned by someone else in the seemingly indistinguishable blend of words outside your own conversation, you are likely to pick it up and focus your attention to where it came from.[5]

Now it is thought that there is no ‘bottleneck’ at all and in fact people can be trained to focus on many complex tasks at once. The suggestion by Shiffrin and Schneider (1977) is that there are 2 processes involved in selection. One is ‘automatic’ which is used in familiar situations and the other is ‘controlled’ by the person and is used on new or changing...
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