• What is Attention and Consciousness
• The Nature of Attention & Consciousness:
Processing information (preconscious, controlled and automatic)
• Focused and divided attention, signal detection
• Problems of attention
• What am I wearing?
• Last conversation you had?
• Is the room hot or cold?
• Who are you seated beside/ in front of?
WHAT IS ATTENTION?
• Attention is the means by which we actively process a
limited amount of information from the enormous amount of
information available through our senses, our stored
memories, and our other cognitive processes (De Weerd,
2003a; Rao, 2003)
• how we actively process specific information present in our
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF ATTENTION?
• Attention allows you to "tune out" information,
sensations and perceptions that are not
necessarily relevant at that moment but
instead focus your energy on the information
that is important.
WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS?
• the feeling of awareness and the content of awareness, some of which may be
under the focus of attention
• your individual awareness of your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations
• Role of Consciousness
• First, it helps in monitoring our interactions with the environment. Through this we
maintain our awareness of how well we are adapting to the situation
• Second, it assists us in linking our past (memories) andour present (sensations) to give
us a sense of continuity of experience.
• Third, it helps us in controlling and planning for our future actions
• Example: Shuttle service
• Information that is available for cognitive processing but that currently lies
outside of conscious awareness exists at the preconscious level of
• In Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory of personality, the preconscious
mind is a part of the mind that corresponds to ordinary memory. These
memories are not conscious, but we can retrieve them to conscious
awareness at any time.
• It includes stored memories
• For eg. If asked to spontaneously describe our bedrooms, though we may
not be in the exact environment or thinking of the room at the exact time,
we can easily describe how it looks and its contents.
• For e.g. if a person reads a list of words including the word candy, and is
later asked to complete a word starting with can, the probability that he
or she will answer candy is greater than if they are not primed.
PROBLEMS WITH PULLING
We try to remember something that is known to be stored in
memory but that cannot quite be readily retrieved
People who can not come up with the word, but who thought they
knew it, could identify the first letter, indicate the number of
syllables, or approximate the word’s sounds
• It is found in every culture, language and among multi-lingual, bilingual and
PROCESSING INFORMATION: CONTROLLED
• Automatic processes like writing your name need no conscious control. They
may be performed without conscious awareness, but you may be aware
that you are performing them.
*parallel processes: multiple automatic processes occur at once eg reading while sharpening a pencil
• Controlled processes are accessible to conscious control and even require it.
*Doing a math equation
THE NATURE OF ATTENTION AND
Controlled Versus Automatic Processes
• Controlled processes
• Require intentional effort; full conscious awareness; consume many attentional
resources; performed serially; relatively slow
• Automatic Processes
• Little or no intention or effort; occur outside of conscious awareness; do not
require a lot of attention, performed by parallel processing; fast
• We become accustomed to a stimulus, we gradually notice it less
and less (e.g. listening to music while studying)
• A change in a familiar stimulus prompts us to start noticing the
*Both processes occur automatically and require no conscious
VIGILANCE AND SIGNAL DETECTION
• We vigilantly try to detect whether we did or did not sense a
signal (a particular target stimulus of interest)
• A person’s ability to attend to a field of stimulation over a prolonged
period, during which the person seeks to detect the appearance of a
particular target stimulus of interest
• Example – (Mackworth, 1948)
• Participants were watching when a clock hand took a double step
• Substantial deterioration after half an hour of observation
• Vigilance can be increased with training
• Paying attention over a long period of time to see a stimuli at any given time
• Lifeguard, navy, teachers, prison wardens, students,
• Signal Detection Theory
Selecting particular stimuli from unnecessary ones
Task- indicate when you see a pigeon
1.Hits/ true positives- accurately identifying the target stimuli (a pigeon)
2.False alarms /false positives- indicating the target when it isn’t there (thinking
you’ve seen a pigeon but it’s a crow)
3. Misses /false negatives- not noticing the target (you didn’t see the pigeon)
4.Correct rejections/true negatives- correctly identifying the absence of a
target (there is a crow but not a pigeon
• Scanning the environment for particular features
• Whereas vigilance involves passively waiting for a signal stimulus to appear, search involves actively seeking out
• actively looking for something when you are not sure where it will appear.
Example: Rummaging through your room looking for a particular book/shoes/clothes when it is particularly messy
• Non-target stimuli that divert our attention away from the target stimuli
*Distracters- objects that are similar to what we are searching for which then gives you false hope or causes false alarm
• Searching for an object or target with a specific feature
Say you were an assassin sent to kill someone in a suit on wall street. Everyone
on wall street wears a suit.
Your target has specific features such as he is partially bald, has a limp and
carries a weathered, brown briefcase.
Eg. Find the Capital ‘D’
• Searching for an object that has a combination of two features
BOTTLENECK / FILTER THEORIES
• Feature Integration Theory (Treisman 1986)
Whenever we have previously identified a stimulus or target by a specific
feature we encode that to memory and whenever we want to locate it we receive
the feature of the stimulus or target from memory.
• Similarity Theory
The more the stimulus and distracter have in common the harder it is to
accurately point out what it is that you are looking for.
• Guided Search Theory
1.Finding targets that have similar elements to what you are looking for
2.Eliminating those that do not fit the criteria of wat you are looking for
SELECTIVE ATTENTION AND
• Demonstrates the psychological difficulty in selectively
attending to the color of the ink and trying to ignore the
word that is printed with the ink of that color
• Since reading is an automatic process (not readily subject
to your conscious control) you find it difficult intentionally
to refrain from reading and instead to concentrate on
identifying the color of the ink
Stroop task (1935)
1.Reading is an automatic process
2.Colour naming is a controlled process
3.Our automatic process of reading interferes with our ability to
selectively attend to colour naming
Read through this list of color names as quickly
as possible. Read from right to left across
Red Yellow Blue Green
Blue Red Green Yellow
Yellow Green Red Blue
Name as quickly as possible the color of ink in which
each word is printed. Name from left to right across
Yellow Green Red
• In lectures
SELECTIVE ATTENTION &
1. Sir is lecturing but your friend is speaking to you. You
may choose to listen to sir and take notes or listen to your friend
and decide to read on the topic covered in lecture.
2. You have one ear phone in and your friend brings
some gossip, you could disregard the music playing to the point
it becomes background music. Or you may especially like the
song playing and choose to focus on it.
*Cocktail party effect- You are engaged in a rather interesting
conversation but you hear your name and immediately try to
find the source of the speaker.
BROADBENT’S MODEL OF
• Depending on the physical characteristics of messages (pitch, tone, etc)
are used to select one message for further processing and all others are lost
Watching television and baby starts to wail. Chances are you are going to
focus on the baby as their pitch is going to be louder than the television.
TREISMAN’S MODEL OF
• physical characteristics are used to select one
message for full processing and other messages
are given partial processing
• Using example of lectures. If your friend is louder
than lecturer then you will be more focused on
what they are saying than the lecturer
DEUTSCH & DEUTSCH ON LATE
• all messages get through, but that only one
response can be made (late selection)
Example of listening to music and friend is
gossiping. You may be listening to both however
you will possibly respond to your friend later after
your mind has sorted between the music and what
your friend has said.
DIVIDED ATTENTION/ DUAL
• trying to attend to two stimuli at once and making multiple responses
rather than making one response to multiple stimuli (interference)
• It is easier to multitask when the activities do not require much focus
rewriting notes & listening music, watching a movie and cleaning,
Exercising and reading.
• The task becomes difficult when both activities require that a good
amount of your attention is focused on the activities, cooking and
doing laundry, taking care of a younger sibling and doing homework
• We have a single pool of resources that can be adequately distributed to all
• It is easier to divide resources to tasks tat use different sensory processing
visual and verbal vs verbal and verbal activities
• We have multiple resources to our advantage that can be used for our
variety of activities
PROBLEMS OF ATTENTION
• When individuals have problems:• Focusing
• Spatial neglect (Martha Farah)
• Patients ignore half of their visual field
• Attention deficits have been linked to lesions in: The frontal lobe; The basal ganglia
• inability to report, respond, or orient to stimuli, generally in the contralesional
• the inability to detect changes in objects or scenes that are being viewed
• people are not able to see things that are actually there
ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY
• Characterised by inattention, hyperactivity & impulsiveness. There are three
main types of ADHD, depending on which symptoms are predominant:
hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, & hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive