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Attention & consciousness


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  • Military investigation of an American helicopter’s attack on 23 Afghan civilians (including children) found that a team analyzing data from a drone and other sources failed to pass along critical information about the group’s make-up. The cause of this mistake: Information overload! Drone teams have to monitor several videos, online chats, and emails simultaneously. Data is an important weapon in the 21st century but misinformation or miscommunication can be costly. Mindfulness training to increase attention capacity (Wiki topic) Dec. 29, 1972 Eastern Airlines Flight 401 developed problems with its landing gear on approach to Miami. While pilots tried to fix landing gear, they inadvertently disabled the autopilot. As a result, the plane started to descend. Pilots were so occupied with the landing gear problem they missed the ground proximity alarm and ended up crashing killing 98 people. Cognitive tunnel vision exacerbated by stress, fatigue, and workload. B. 4 Attention Processes 1. Divided Attention: e.g., NY times article 2. Selective Attention: e.g., Airplane, conversation w/ loud music: 3. Sustained attention or vigilance: maintain focus for a long period of time 4. Saccadic eye movements: e.g., during reading Attention can be viewed as limited resource whose capacity depends on the extent to which the tasks requiring attention are automatic or controlled.
  • A. Research shows there is a RT or accuracy cost when performing two tasking simultaneously or when switching from one task to another. B. Levy and colleagues (2006) had moderately experienced drivers perform a simulated driving game. 1. Follow a lead car that occasionally breaks and participants had to brake as soon as they could. (Driving task) 2. While following, they had to perform a second task: indicate whether a tone sounded once or twice. (Listening Task) 3. Results: People applied the break much faster when they performed the listening event and then the driving event than when both events occurred simultaneously. C. Strayer and colleagues: You’re not safer with hands free devices 1. Compared braking time of drivers with hands-free cell phones and drivers with no cell phone. Also varied amount of traffic: heavy and light 2. Results: During light traffic, there was a slight cost. During heavy traffic there was a significant increase in break time. 3. Evidence of inattentional blindness — attention narrow to center of visual field and miss things in the periphery D. Wikman and colleagues (increased ecological validity-changing CDs, dialing phone, switch the radio station) Even for these well-practiced behaviors you see driving impairment especially among novice drivers (eyes off of road for more than 3 sec). Experienced drivers were more efficient but still had their eyes of the road for some time. Ecological validity: extent to which experimental conditions are similar to natural setting
  • Two hemispheres are relatively specialized for certain processes and there’s some evidence that 2 tasks can be divided between the two hemispheres with no cost. e.g., Balancing dowel on left finger and talking should be better than with right finger. And conversely, balancing dowel on right finger and doing a spatial task should be better than with the left finger. 2 Cornell Grad students trained to read short stories and write lists of words dictated to them with high accuracy on both tasks (measured by reading speed/comprehension and memory for the random dictated words). With training one task (writing words) becomes automatic allowing the more attention to be devoted to the controlled reading task. Wiki Topic: Under what conditions, can divided attention led to few costs?
  • Process is automatic meaning it happens involuntarily—it occurs whether you want it to or not you’re not aware of its operation, and you can’t go in and think about it or dissect what just happened. With a conscious process, however, you can. Theorists believe you have a limited pool of attention; that is, there’s only so much to spread around. An automatic process doesn’t tap those resources too heavily; thus, they shouldn’t interfere with other mental tasks, particularly ones that use conscious processes. A conscious process, on the other hand, generally uses lots of attentional resources; that means they leave few rersources for other mental tasks
  • 100% Congruent 50% congruent 33% congruent Larger congruency effect (more interference) when there’s a small proportion of incongruent trials Explanation: 1) Reading for adults automatic whereas naming color is a controlled process. Wouldn’t work for illiterate (children). Parallel Distributed Processing: Activates 2 pathways @ the same time (P1: name color and P2: read color). emotional Stroop task —naming the ink color of words related to a psychological disorder Phobics slower to name ink color when word is related to their phobia (spider—hairy, crawl, web) Depressed people are slower to name negative words
  • There examples of us being very good at selective attention (inattentional blindness and flight accident from intro) and other examples show us limitations. Dichotic listening demo
  • People notice changes in gender, but miss when unattended message is in a foreign language. Cocktail party effect: Ask class who they would expect is more susceptible to the cocktail party phenomenon. And then discuss individual differences in WM. Low WM people more easily distracted? Individuals with high working memory capacity are less likely to notice their names compared to individuals with low working memory (Cowan, 2005) Example of how limited resource varies between individuals (theme)
  • Using what you know about visual search to predict which of each pair would be easier to search for: The letter O among V’s or the letter P among R’s and Q’s As number of distractors increase for single feature trials what happens? How about for conjunctive search?
  • Training increased sensitivity (better able to find targets--knives), but this is specific to object trained (doesn’t generalize to different knives) -Search skills didn’t improve as much as recognition skills. Observers need to be trained on a variety of objects to increase chances of identifying targets. -From Session 1 to the final session, chances of fixating on target did not change (scanning effectiveness), but people became more efficient (faster and more sensitive) at recognizing the target.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Attention & Consciousness
    • 2. Outline & Themes• 4 Attention processes – Divided attention – Selective Attention – Sustained Attention – Saccadic Eye Movements during reading• Attention is as limited resource and its capacity depends on: the individual and type of task – Automatic or controlled processes
    • 3. Divided Attention• trying to pay attention to two or moresimultaneous messages or perform twotasks at the same time – Simulated-driving studies •Usually there’s a cost associated with divided attention • Levy and coauthors (2006) –braking & tone • Strayer and colleagues (2003) –hands-free cell phones, traffic, braking • Ecological Validity
    • 4. Divided Attention• Divided attention usually leads to RT or performance costs, but there are exceptions…1) Hemispheric specialization2) Skills changing from controlled to automatic
    • 5. Divided AttentionAutomatic Controlled• Process occurs w/o • Process occurs w/ intention intention• Mental process is not • Process is open to open to introspection conscious awareness• Process consumes few • Process consumes if any conscious conscious resources resources (esp. attention)• Process operates • Process operates slower rapidly
    • 7. Selective Attention• respond selectively to certain kinds of information, while ignoring other information• Examples: – Stroop effect – Dichotic listening task & Shadowing – Visual search
    • 8. Methodology• Dichotic Listening Task – 2 auditory messages played simultaneously— one message presented to left ear and a different message presented to right ear• Shadowing Task (Broadbent & Cherry)• 2 messages played, but participant instructed to repeat aloud only one.• Researchers interested in what (if anything) gets through the other (unattended) ear.
    • 9. Dichotic Listening•Selective Attention•people notice very little about theunattended message •in general, we can process only one message at a time •may process the unattended message when –1. both messages are presented slowly –2. the task is not challenging –3. the meaning of the unattended message is relevant »Cocktail party phenomenon
    • 10. Selective Attention Visual Search– Before next class go to:–– Select 1 of 4 tasks (colored shapes, line orientation, etc.), do some practice trials, & then choose 96 trials.– Take a screen shot of your results and answer these questions:1) What happens when we search for a single, isolated feature versus a combined set of features (conjunction search)?2) What happens when the feature is present vs. absent?3) Are your results the same or different from what is traditionally found?Next class hand in 1 sheet of paper w/ results & answers.
    • 11. Sustained attention (Vigilance):• ability to maintain the focus of attention forprolonged periods• observer searches for target among non-targets (e.g., airport baggage check, enemyplanes on a radar, tumors in radiology)
    • 12. Sustained attention (Vigilance):•McCarley et al. (2004) asked: – Does training enhance search skills, recognition skills, or both? – Can training vigilance on one set of objects transfer to a novel set of objects?