Attachment Principle Of


ATTENTION, LAWS/PRINCIPLES AND THEORIES OF. The term attention is defined differently depending on the context in which it is used. In a functional sense, for instance, attention refers to the process of focusing on certain portions of an experience so that the parts become relatively more distinctive (cf., readiness potential - a large negative difference in voltage across the cerebral cortex, hypothesized to be indicative of attention, and developing about eight-tenths of a second before an individual makes a preplanned bodily movement). In a behavioral context (cf., behaviorist school context, where attention was rejected as a more traditional mentalistic concept), attention is defined more precisely as an adjustment of the sensory apparatus that facilitates optimal excitation by a specific stimulus (or a complex of stimuli) and inhibits the action of all other details. Attention may be conscious, in that some stimulus elements are actively selected out of the total input, even though there is no explicit awareness of the factors that cause the person to perceive only some small part of the total stimulus complex. Historically, the English psychologist George F. Stout (1860-1944) considered attention to be "conation" (i.e., craving, desire, or will) insofar as it required for its satisfaction fuller cognizance of its object; and others (e.g., M. Maher, 1900) distinguished between sensation and attention where sensation involves a passive faculty, and attention is the exercise of an activity or the application of intellectual energy. For the English-born American psychologist E. B. Titchener (1867-1927), the concept of attention was given attributive status where it was nothing more nor less than that which changes in experience and where attentional shifts are due to the clarity or vividness ("attensity") of the sensory processes. Many early psychology textbook authors (who seem, generally, to use the term law quite liberally and effusively in "nonpositivistic" ways) refer to the laws or theories of attention. For example, C. Buell (1900) lists six laws of attention: intensity of the stimulus, curiosity, size, adaptation, motive, and change. C. Seashore (1923) lists 14 laws of attention: tension, novelty, intensity, action change, periodicity, timing, rest, grouping, division of energy, purpose, interest, effort, form, and skill. H. von Ebbinghaus (1908) refers to the laws of practice, memory, and attention. R. Halleck (1895), J. M. Baldwin (1894), and E. B. Titchener (1928) describe laws of attention. M. Calkins (1916) describes eight theories of attention: activity theory, motor theory, negative theories, element theory, Bradley's theory, inhibition theory, Ri-bot's theory, and Wundt's theory. J. M. Baldwin (1894), in addition to referring to the general law of attention, describes Horwicz's theory of attention and the spiritual theories of reflex attention. H. Hoffding (1908) describes Condillac's theory of attention; and R. Woodworth (1921) refers to a theory of attention, as well as to the laws of attention. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Structuralist and Functionalist schools of psychology considered the topic of attention to be a core problem in the field and emphasized different aspects of it. For instance, the Structuralists viewed attention as a state of consciousness that consisted of increased concentration and sensory clear ness; they studied the conditions that maximized the clearness of a sensation. On the other hand, the Functionalists focused on the selective and volitional nature of attention; they studied the motivational state and active functioning of the individual. Recent experimental work on attention focuses on variables (or "problems" of attention) such as stimulus intensity, distraction, shifts and fluctuations, stimulus duration, attention span, attentional value of stimuli in different sensory modalities, locations, levels of novelty, temporal relations of stimuli as determiners of attention and selectivity, and the neurophysiological basis of attention. Attention may be controlled automatically (e.g., a loud sound captures one's attention), by instructions (e.g., "pay attention to the red one over there"), or by the demands of a particular task (e.g., when driving a car, the driver looks out for other cars, pedestrians, and road signs). A person's attentional mechanisms serve to enhance responsiveness to certain stimuli and to tune out irrelevant information. An interesting aspect of attention, called the cocktail-party phenomenon (Cherry, 1953; Wood & Cowan, 1995), refers to the ability to attend selectively to a single person's speech across a room and in the midst of the competing speech of many other people (such as at a noisy cocktail party). Three possible functions of attention have been identified: as a sensory filter, as response selection, and as a gateway to consciousness. Recent formalized theories of attention include the English psychologist Donald Eric Broadbent's (1926-1993) filter theory/model (where all sensory input is processed in a parallel manner, initially occurring in an automatic "preattentive compartment," and then some of it is selected to enter the "attentive compartment" for further processing; this theory, also known as bottleneck theory, can account for a person's ability to selectively hear or see things based on physical distinctions and for a person's failure to register the meanings of unattended stimuli); late selection theories (e.g., R. Shiffrin & W. Schneider, 1977) - in this type of attention theory, the preattentive stage can process very familiar stimuli for meaning, and based on such processing, the selection can pass such stimuli onto the attentive stage, where they become conscious to the person; this theory can account for one's ability to hear one's own name in an unattended message or the ability to be influenced by the meaning of a stimulus that is not consciously perceived; and early-selection theories [e.g., A. M. Treisman's (1969) attenuation theory - these theories suggest that a great quantity of information passes into the attentive stage and is analyzed for meaning at any of various levels of consciousness, but only some of the information is analyzed at a level that permits the individual to describe it]. Currently, research on the psychological, as well as the neurological, aspects of attention continues unabated (cf., Logan, 2004), and there are promising connections between the experimental work on attention and the eventual explanation and understanding of various psychopathological disorders such hyperactiv-ity, schizophrenia, and mental retardation. See also BLOCKING, PHENOMENON/EFFECT OF; CONDILLAC'S THEORY OF ATTENTION; ELICITED OBSERVING RATE HYPOTHESIS; PSYCHOPATHOLOGY, THEORIES OF; VIGILANCE, THEORIES OF.

Brain Blaster

Brain Blaster

Have you ever been envious of people who seem to have no end of clever ideas, who are able to think quickly in any situation, or who seem to have flawless memories? Could it be that they're just born smarter or quicker than the rest of us? Or are there some secrets that they might know that we don't?

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment