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Attention Lecture 1-2 Copyright and Intellectual Property

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What is attention according to psychologists?

Attention is the cognitive process of focusing on a task, whilst ignoring distractions.

What are the two types of attention distinguished by psychologists?

Focussed attention

Focussed and divided attention have different biological bases.


Studying focused attention often involves presenting participants with _ stimuli at once.


Match the theories with their descriptions:

Treisman's Attenuation Theory = Unattended information reaching consciousness is the exception Deutsch and Deutsch's Late Selection Theory = Unattended information reaching consciousness is the rule

According to Treisman's Attenuation Theory, in cocktail party scenarios, the brain tends to:

Enhance processing of attended messages and suppress processing of unattended messages

What is the goal of 'neurosteered hearing aids' that use EEG signals?

Identify and amplify 'attended to' voices

The Zoom-Lens Theory of Attention suggests there is no trade-off between the spotlight's size and processing efficiency.


According to the Object-Based Attention Theory, the 'spotlight' can take the shape of ______ of interest.


Which theory predicts faster responses to specific elements in a visual task: the Spotlight theory or Object-based attention theory?

Object-based attention theory

Match the following models of visual attention with their characteristics:

Spotlight Theory of Attention = Likens visual attention to a fixed-size spotlight Zoom-Lens Theory of Attention = Compares the spotlight to a camera zoom lens Object-Based Attention Theory = Suggests the 'spotlight' can take the shape of objects of interest

What should you be able to explain by the end of 'Attention: Part 1'?

  1. Explain the difference between focussed and divided attention, and how they are studied. 2. Explain how WW2 inspired the creation of the dichotic listening task and how the task works. 3. Explain and critically evaluate three models that explain how focused auditory attention works. 4. Explain whether visual attention is like a spotlight, zoom-lens, or if object-based attention occurs.

Study Notes

Introduction to Attention

  • The University of Adelaide provides the copyright warning prior to presenting the material, which has been copied and communicated under the Statutory Licence pursuant to s113P of the Copyright Act 1968 for educational purposes.

Dr. Craig Thorley and the Course Overview

  • Dr. Craig Thorley is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, focusing on human memory accuracy and age estimation accuracy, and is the Program Director of the Graduate Diploma in Psychology (Online).
  • The course covers topics such as focussed vs. divided attention, visual attention and object perception, World War 2 and attention, and inattentional blindness and perceptual load.

What is Attention?

  • Attention is the cognitive process of focusing on a task while ignoring distractions.
  • There are two types of attention:
  • Focussed attention: the ability to focus on one task while ignoring distractions.
  • Divided attention: the ability to focus on two or more tasks at the same time.

Focussed vs. Divided Attention

  • Focussed attention is studied by presenting participants with two stimuli at once and asking them to focus on one.
  • Divided attention is studied by having participants complete two tasks at once.
  • Researchers examine issues such as how well we can focus attention on one stimulus while ignoring another, and what influences our ability to do so.

Attentional Limitations

  • Our attentional system has limited processing power, which impacts us in several ways:
  • We can struggle to focus on a single task for an extended period.
  • We can struggle to focus on two or more tasks at once.
  • We can only attend to a small amount of environmental information at once and can fail to notice salient information, events, or changes in our environment.

WW2 and Attention

  • During WW2, the UK military had psychology academics study attention to ensure personnel were working to the best of their ability.
  • Examples include the 'Clock Task' to see how long radar operators can monitor screens before missing information, and studying pilots' attention during long operations.

Dichotic Listening Task

  • The dichotic listening task is a study design where participants listen to two messages at once, one in each ear, and are asked to attend to one message and ignore the other.
  • This task is used to study focussed auditory attention and how well we can process unattended messages.

Filter Theory and its Problems

  • Broadbent's Filter Theory (1958) suggests that unattended messages are blocked at the 'filter stage', but studies showed that unattended messages were still processed.
  • Examples of studies that challenged Filter Theory include Moray (1959), Gray and Wedderburn (1960), and Treisman (1964).
  • Treisman's Attenuation Theory (1964) amended Broadbent's Filter Theory, suggesting that both messages enter sensory memory, but unattended message processing is reduced.

Late Selection Model

  • Deutsch and Deutsch's Late Selection Model (1963) proposes that all information is fully processed for meaning, and the most relevant information becomes the focus of attention.

Comparison of Theories

  • Treisman's Attenuation Theory and Deutsch and Deutsch's Late Selection Model make different predictions about how attention works.
  • Research has supported Treisman's Attenuation Theory, suggesting that unattended information reaching consciousness is the exception rather than the rule.

Focussed Auditory Attention and Hearing Aids

  • People with hearing aids can struggle in cocktail party scenarios, as 'attended to' voices are not always enhanced.
  • Researchers are developing 'neurosteered hearing aids' that use EEG signals to identify and amplify 'attended to' voices.

Attention When Viewing Scenes

  • We can only focus attention on one small area of a visual scene at any one moment.
  • Our eyes pause on one area, process information, and skip to another, helping us quickly process scenes.

Theories of Visual Attention

  • Posner et al.'s Spotlight Theory (1980) likens visual attention to a fixed-size spotlight that moves around scenes.
  • Eriksen and St. James' Zoom-Lens Theory (1986) argues that the spotlight can be adjusted to alter the visual area it covers.
  • Object-based attention theorists argue that the 'spotlight' can take the shape of objects of interest.

Object-Based Attention Theory

  • This theory suggests that visual attention is shaped like the objects of interest, allowing us to process them more effectively.
  • Spotlight and object-based attention theories make different predictions about how attention works in certain scenarios.
  • Research has supported the object-based attention theory, suggesting that visual attention is shaped like objects of interest.

Learn about the importance of copyright warnings and permissions in educational settings. Understand the statutory licence and its applications in universities.

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