Selective attention: definition, examples and theories that explain it

One of these interesting psychological concepts is what we are going to explain today, through their definition and the theories that have addressed it. We talk about selective attention.

Selective attention: defining the concept

the selective attention, Also called focused attention, refers to the ability of an organism to focus its mind on a particular stimulus or task, Despite the presence of other environmental stimuli. In other words, it is when a person gives preference to certain stimuli and is able to attend to relevant stimuli and inhibit distractors. Its function its function is essential because of the limitation of the attention span.

To illustrate this, you can imagine that you have a shelf full of shoes, and since you are going for a run with friends, you need the “running” sneakers. Having to look for the shoes you need to put on, this task requires selective attention, so focus on the “slippers” to find and wear them.

Theories That Explain Selective Attention

There are several theoretical models that seek to explain how selective attention works. The best known are Broadbent, Treisman, Deutsch and Deutsch. All of these models are known as filter or bottle neck models because they predict that we cannot deal with all of the sensory input at once, so they try to explain why the material is passing through the filter. is selected.

But what characterizes each model? Here’s how.

Broadbent Rigid Filter Model

the donald broadbent model is one of the best known for attempting to explain attention processing and in particular selective attention. A work that began with the study of traffic controllers during the war. Broadbent noted that these professionals, because they receive many continuous messages that require attention, and are faced with a situation where they can only process one message at a time, so they must decide which is the most important. . Broadbent designed a “dichotomous listening” experiment to study the processes involved in shifting the focus of attention.

Broadbent thinks that the information of all the stimuli occurring at a given moment enters the “sensory buffer” (damping center), Also called short-term warehouse. One of the inputs is selected by its physical characteristics to pass the filter. Because we have a limited ability to process information, the filter is designed to keep the information processing system from overloading.

Unselected sensory inputs remain briefly in the sensory buffer, and if they do not disappear quickly. Broadbent assumed that the filter rejected unattended messages in the early stages of processing.

His research and the work of dichotomous listening

In his research, he wanted to know how people could selectively focus their attention, And for that, he deliberately overloaded them with stimuli. The subjects received a lot of information, too much to deal with at the same time.

One of the ways Broadbent did this was to send simultaneous and different messages (a three-digit number) to the right and left ear. Participants were asked to repeat them while listening to the two messages. This is called a “dichotomous listening task”.

The scientist was interested in how the numbers would be repeated. Would they answer in the order they heard it? Broadbent observed that the numbers in a string were always repeated together. For example, if the left ear listened to 673 and the left 987, subjects responded 673,987, or 987,673. A response type 867,637 was never obtained, in which there would be alternation between the channels.

Broadbent’s research results

The results of his research led him to assert that we can only pay attention to one channel at a time (In dichotomous listening, each ear is a channel, so the other is lost). The information lost will depend on the characteristics of the stimulus and the needs of the organism. In addition, as already mentioned, the filter, which selects an attention channel, does so taking into account the physical characteristics: for example, the ear through which the information is entered, the type of voice. Therefore, the meaning of what is said is not taken into account in the filter at any time. All the semantic processing, i.e. understanding what the message is saying, is done after the filter.

This model received a lot of reviews, for example, it does not precisely define the nature and functions of the treatment system, Does not provide enough information on how information can be transferred from one warehouse to another and considers working memory as a passive warehouse.

Treisman Attenuated Filter Model

Selective attention requires that stimuli be filtered in order to direct attention. As explained above, Broadbent suggested that material selected for attention (i.e. filtering) be done before semantic analysis.. Well, the Treisman model maintains this idea of ​​a filter, but with the difference that instead of removing the material, it attenuates it. Attenuation is like turning down the volume, so if you have four stimuli in a room (a crying baby, the TV, someone talking on the phone, and the radio) you can turn the volume down by three for you. focus on the stimulus. remaining.

The unattended material appears to have been lost, but if an unattended channel includes your name, for example, you can hear it because the material is there. In other words, the relevant message passes through the filter, but irrelevant messages are mitigated so as not to overload the central processing mechanism. Irrelevant messages get some sort of analysis, which is why great functionality is detected and our attention is diverted to those channels.

The late filter model of Deustch and Deustch

The Deustch and Deustch model indicates that all stimuli are analyzed and reach a sense in order to be able to select the input which will pass to full consciousness. The selection of this entry is made according to the importance of the stimulus at the moment.

Unlike the Broadbent and Treisman models, stimuli are not filtered out at the start of the cognitive process, but the filter would be present later in this process, and its main function would be to select the information that passes to the cognitive process of active memory.

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