Psyc 317: Cognitive Psychology

Lecture 4: Attention


Today¶s agenda
‡ Selective attention
± Different theories: early-selection, attenuation, late-selection, perceptual load

‡ Divided attention
± Effect of: practice, task difficulty, task type

‡ Attention & visual processing
± Overt & covert attention

What is attention?
‡ ´Everyone knows what attention is.µ
± William James, 1890

‡ ´No one knows what attention is.µ
± Harold Pashler, 1998

‡ Attention is a well-studied phenomenon, but hard to define

What is attention?
‡ The ability to focus mental resources on something ‡ Attention is limited
± Think of attention as a pool of resources

‡ To attend to something: To pay attention to it
± ´Attended earµ - Paying attention to words in that ear


Focusing on just one thing ‡ Cocktail party metaphor: You are talking to someone at a party with a lot of other people making noise. ‡ You are able to filter out other noise and focus just on the person you·re talking to. How do you do that? 5 .

Four theories of attentional selection ‡ Early-selection theories ± Broadbent·s Filter Model ± Triesman·s Attenuation Model ‡ Late-selection theory ‡ Perceptual load theory 6 .

led to a new theory ‡ The development of these theories tell a story . they are all competing ‡ The theories were developed chronologically ± One theory proposed.keep that in mind! 7 . had problems.That¶s a lot of theories! ‡ In a way.

Dichotic Listening ± Present different messages to each ear ± Subjects paid attention (attended) to one ear and ignored the other ± Repeat the attended message out loud shadowing 8 .Cherry¶s Dichotic Listening ‡ Colin Cherry (1953) .

even when the unattended stream was the same word presented 35 times! 9 . they could only report sex of voice ± No content was remembered.Dichotic Listening Results ‡ Participants shadowed the attended message easily ‡ When asked about the unattended message.

Broadbent¶s Filter Model ‡ An early-selection model .filtering occurs before incoming stimuli are analyzed to the semantic level 10 .

Parts of the filter model ‡ Sensory store .Holds information for general processing 11 . pitch.Holds incoming information for a short period of time ‡ Filter . location of stimulus (which ear) ‡ Detector .Information is processed to determine meaning ‡ Short-term memory .Analyzes messages based on physical characteristics like tone of voice.

Auditory ³Channels´ ‡ Each ear is thought to be a different ´channelµ that information can come in from ‡ It is difficult to switch attention from one channel to another 12 .

Broadbent¶s Split-Scan SplitStudy ‡ Present letters at the same time to each ear :-) H M :-) R S :-) W P 13 .

) Repeat back all letters in any order 2. S. P Condition 2 (In Order): H. M« P? 14 :-) :-) . R.Broadbent¶s Split-Scan SplitStudy ‡ Two conditions: 1.) Repeat back letters in the order they were presented :-) H R W M S P Condition 1 (Any Order): H. M. W.

SplitSplit-Scan Results ‡ Condition 1 (repeat back in any order) ± 65% correct letter report ± Would report all letters presented to one ear first ‡ Condition 2 (repeat back in presented order) ± 20% correct letter report ‡ Harder to switch channels to report back letters 15 .

The filter model explains« ‡ How we can pay attention to one ear and ignore stimuli coming into the other ear ‡ Why we prefer to process stimuli that come in to one ear all at once as opposed to switching channels 16 .

‡ But you were supposed to be ignoring other conversations .what happened? 17 . Then you turn your head. ‡ You·re talking to your friend and ignoring all the other conversations« ‡ Until someone across the room says your name.Problems with filter model ‡ Back at the cocktail party.

Other evidence against ‡ Moray (1959) .Subjects heard their name in the unattended stream ‡ Gray & Weddeburn (1960) Shown: ± Response should have been ´Dear 7 Janeµ ± But subjects said ´Dear Aunt Janeµ 18 .

Groups of syllables/words ‡ Attended messages are given more priority 19 . an attenuator analyzes incoming messages ± Physical characteristics ± Language .Triesman¶s attenuation model ‡ Still an early-selection theory ‡ Instead of a filter.

Attenuation: Box & arrow 20 .

Attenuation: The Dictionary Unit ‡ The message gets passed on to the dictionary unit Threshold = Smallest signal strength that can just be detected Easily detected 21 .

22 .Attenuation explains« ‡ Hearing your own name when that stream is supposed to be ignored ‡ Switching channels in order to make a complete sentence ‡ But a specific dictionary unit? That seems like a cop-out.

Problems with early selection ‡ MacKay (1973) ‡ Ambiguous sentences: ´They were throwing stones at the bankµ ± Bank = Financial institution or side of a river? 23 .

MacKay Method & Results ‡ Dichotic listening ± Attended stream: Ambiguous sentence ‡ ´They were throwing stones at the bank.µ ± Unattended stream: Biasing word ‡ ´Riverµ or ´Moneyµ ‡ The biasing word had an effect! ± If ´moneyµ. the ambiguous sentence was more likely interpreted as financial institution 24 .

and it wasn·t a name or another lowthreshold word ± Not early-selection ± Not an attenuator ‡ The word was actually being processed to the semantic level (to its meaning) 25 .What does this mean? ‡ The unattended stream was being processed.

LateLate-selection theories 26 .

then it captures our attention ‡ Late selection ± « or not. 27 .So what¶s right? ‡ Early selection ± We can totally ignore an unattended stream ‡ Attenuation ± « unless it·s our own name. Words in the unattended stream can also be processed.

‡ Lavie (1995) .Where the filtering occurs depends on task load ± How much of a person·s cognitive resources are used in a task 28 .So what¶s right? ‡ There·s evidence for EVERYTHING! ‡ That·s no good.

Perceptual Load Theory ‡ High-load task: Difficult. requiring most of someone·s cognitive resources ± Only selected items are processed ‡ Low-load task: Easier. cognitive resources are left over ± Can process additional information 29 .

Flanker Introduction ‡ Is the center letter an H or S? Easy/Compatible: H H H H H Hard/Competing: S S H S S 30 .

Flanker Compatibility Task ‡ Decide whether one of the shapes in the circles is a square or diamond ‡ Ignore shapes outside of the circle (flanker) 31 .

Two types of flankers ‡ Compatible: Outside shape is same as target (makes search faster) ‡ Competing: Outside shape is different than target (makes search slower) 32 .

Green & Bavelier (2003) ‡ Low load: Only one shape in circle Compatible Flanker Competing Flanker Flankers RT: Which one is faster? 33 .

Green & Bavelier (2003) ‡ High load: Lots of distractor shapes in circles Compatible Flanker Competing Flanker Must ignore 34 .

none left to process extra stuff (the flanker) 35 . All cognitive resources used in the primary task. Lots of cognitive resources left.Green & Bavelier: Predictions ‡ Low-load task: It·s easy. might as well process extra stuff (the flanker) ‡ High-load task: It·s hard.

Green & Bavelier: Results ‡ How much does the competing flanker hurt performance? Increase in RT for competing flanker 36 .

What does this mean for attentional filtering theories? ‡ High-load task = Attentional resources fully used ± No resources left to process extra stimuli ± Early selection .throw out more stimuli (based on physical characteristics) ‡ Low-load task = Attentional resources left over ± Resources are left to process extra stimuli ± Late selection .process stimuli further (up to the semantic level) 37 .

Attention & Video Gamers ‡ Same study on experienced video gamers Competing distractor had same effect in both load conditions This means attention could process more information in both conditions 38 .

task difficulty. perceptual load ‡ Divided attention ± Effect of: practice. lateselection. task type ‡ Visual attention ± Visual attention phenomenon ± The distribution of visual attention ± Hemispatial neglect 39 . attenuation.Outline ‡ Selective attention ± Different theories: early-selection.

Divided Attention ‡ Can we pay attention to more than one thing at a time? ± Yes! Think about driving. listening to the radio and planning dinner ‡ What factors affect our ability to divide attention? ± Practice ± Task Difficulty ± Task Type 40 .

et. performance was much better 41 . al (1976) ‡ Task: Read short stories and take dictation (write words spoken to them) ‡ At first. performance was awful ‡ After 85 hours of practice.The Effect of Practice ‡ Spelke.

up to 4 letters or numbers 42 .Schneider & Shiffrin (1977) ‡ The divided attention task we·ll be talking about ‡ Give subjects a ´memory setµ .

any/all filled ± Distractors were from the other category ‡ If memory set was numbers.Consistent Mapping Condition ‡ Then. distractors were letters 43 . present 20 frames VERY fast ± 4 possible positions.

Schneider & Shiffrin Methods ‡ Was an object from the memory set present anywhere in the stream? ± When one number/letter was in the memory set. it was never a distractor on the next trial ± A distractor on the current trial was never in the memory set on the next trial 44 .

Schneider & Shiffrin Results ‡ Beginning: 55% accurate ‡ 900 trials: 90% accurate ‡ 600 trials: Participants reported automatic processing (no need to try hard to do the task) ± Occurs without intention ± Uses few cognitive resources 45 .

Automatic performance by 600 trials 46 .

they make errors ± Ever try explaining shoe-tying to a small child? 47 .Automatic processing outside the lab ‡ Occurs for well-practiced tasks ± Examples? ‡ When people starting thinking about things.

Can you reduce automatic processing? ‡ What if you increase the number of characters in the memory set and in each frame? ± Little effect on performance .still peak at 90% accuracy at ~ 900 trials ± So this doesn·t seem to increase task load 48 .

What does that mean? ‡ Participants performed tasks in parallel ± Required little attention ‡ Could divide attention 4 ways easily ± Could deal with all the information 49 .

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