Before we begin to examine some of the theories explaining attention it would be appropriate to offer a definition what it refers to provided by William James (1890). In his view “everyone knows what attention is, it is the taking possession by the mind in clear and vivid form of one out of what seem several stimulus objects or trains of thought”. Driver, J (2001) It would seem then attention is a process of selection of which cognitive processing resources are allocated, and a mental resource which allows us to optimize our processing of certain information. This signifies the brains capabilities of selective attention and a relationship with conscious cognitive processing occurring of which we have control over.
For many Psychologists there interests have been to understand the mechanisms within the brain that enable external information from our environment to be registered and attended to while other information is rejected. Most of the early research attempting to explain the inputs and processes involved in auditory attention, assumed that the brain was similar to a computer processor, and that the information humans can attend to is limited. Auditory attention is often viewed as the selection between inputs, therefore we are not able to handle all the inputs from our environment that flood in to our brains processing systems and there is a limit to how much our brains can take in, process and store. Most of the early theories of attention assumed serial processing occurred within the brain attentional system, involving a step by step process in which each operation is carried out in turn. Both Broadbent (1958) & later Treisman (1964) focussed on bottleneck theories, which suggested single channels models of selective attention. Single channel theories see that during information processing there’s a filter enabling some information to pass through for further analysis and the rest is blocked, discarded or the processing is limited. The main differences between the models to be compared are whether the filtering occurs early or late during information processing.
In comparing Broadbent and Treisman and following a chronological timeline. This essay will begin with an outline of Broadbent (1958) theory, who proposed a filter model to explain selective attention, he believed the filter is a bottleneck that prevents the system exceeding capacity by blocking some inputs, and therefore in his view our ability to process information is capacity limited. His model proposes a single channel filter viewing only one channel can be attended at a time. Incoming stimuli from our senses pass through to a sensory register a buffer system and are held in a sensory store very briefly until it can be processed further. Information is then directed to a selective filter which operates on the basis of the physical characteristics of the message, e.g. (the location of source of pitch, type of sound, loudness, the sex of speaker).
His model proposes that the information selected then reaches a limited capacity channel, which allows in information from only one channel at a time, according to Broadbent theory at this selective filter semantic analysis occurs and Information not selected from the unattended channel is blocked out and...