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What does ‘attention’ mean to you? This unit will help you to examine how we ‘pay...
What does ‘attention’ mean to you? This unit will help you to examine how we ‘pay attention’. How do we manage to single out sounds and images that require attention and how easy is it to distract someone and why?
After studying this unit you should be able to:
- understand different cognitive psychological aproaches used to examine such forms of attention as attention to regions of space, attention to objects and attention for action;
- summarise the different cognitive psychological approaches undera fairly abstract definition of the term;
- know how ideas about attention have changed and diversified over the last fifty years and how well they have stood up to examination.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Auditory attention
- 2 Visual attention
- 3 Integrating information in clearly-seen displays
- 4 Attention and distraction
- 5 The neurology of attention
- 6 Concluding thoughts
- Further reading
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For many of us the concept of attention may have rather negative connotations. At school we were told to pay attention, making us all too aware that it was not possible to listen to the teacher while at the same time being lost in more interesting thoughts. Neither does it seem possible to listen effectively to two different things at the same time. How many parents with young children would love to be able to do that! One could be excused for feeling that evolution has let us down by failing to enable us to process more than one thing at a time. If that is how you feel, then this unit might add insult to injury, because it will cite evidence that we do in fact process a good deal of the material to which we are not attending. Why, you might ask, do we go to the trouble of analysing incoming information, only to remain ignorant of the results? To attempt an answer it is necessary to consider a range of issues, stretching from registration of information by the sense organs, through the processes of perception, to the nature of awareness and consciousness. Attention is a broad and intriguing topic. That breadth makes it very difficult to offer a simple definition of the term, so I will not attempt to do so until the end of the unit.
This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 21st May 2010
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