T1 - Adaptive allocation of attention
T1 - The effects of attention pre-allocation and target-background integration on object-based attention
The Attention-Allocation Deficit | WIRED
The second idea, I feel is appropriate to end with, comes from work by William Johnston and his colleagues: e.g. Johnston & Heinz (1978); Johnston & Wilson (1980). This work appeared to demonstrate that there is no single bottleneck in the information processing system, but that there are a series of filters so that incoming stimuli can be processed both 'early' or 'late' depending on the situation: i.e. "the unattended message is processed according to task demands" (Underwood, 1993). This is, therefore, a theory of selective attention.
Some theorists have made an explicit differentiation between attention and consciousness. For example, Johnston and Heinz (1968) view attention as "the systematic admission of perceptual data into consciousness . . . the process whereby perception is biased toward or against specific inputs". This seems a compelling idea, and especially fits with the bottleneck theories of selective attention, unfortunately there are some problems with it. Firstly, there is the problem that attention seems sometimes to be under conscious volition and at other times (often annoyingly) not. This raises the key question: under what circumstances is attention under conscious control? A second problem is that the view of attention as a kind of selection process before ideas are allowed into consciousness (where, presumably, most high level semantic processing, planning and decision making is performed) does not fit with certain empirical findings, especially in the field of subliminal perception. Dixon (1981) in a major review of the field, proposes a model of the mind as an information processor in which there are two separate systems; one involving consciousness/awareness, and the other involving preconscious (or unconscious) processing. If we ally this to the popular view of attention as "the concentration and focusing of mental effort (Matlin, 1983)", then we have a notion of attention which can be quite separate to consciousness. In other words, if attention is a concentration of mental effort, and mental effort can be exerted unconsciously, then attention, at least in part, acts separately to consciousness.
Attention (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
As an alternative, attention can be viewed in the highly restrictive sense of only being necessary for information that is novel and important. This introduces the ideas of acquisition of skill and automaticity which are performed without conscious control (which Reason, 1979, calls open loop control). As we shall see later, this has important implications for the efficacy of the ubiquitous dichotic listening paradigm. Treisman (1988) takes this view, seeing attention as being necessary for the integration of perceptual features that form objects i.e. it is required to combine otherwise separate features that we have not already "chunked" (to borrow a word from memory research) together by previous repeated exposure.
One consequence of Locke’s treatment of attention as a mode ofthinking is that, once we have a theory of thinking before us, we needno further theory to account for how attention, contemplation, study,etc. are possible. (Just as, to use the classic example of‘modes’, we need no substantive independent theory, oncewe have a theory of walking, to explain how limping, pacing or amblingare possible.) We need to say something in giving an analysisof the nature of modes, but—once the thing-to-be-modified hasbeen accounted for—the thing that we say can be something brief,along the lines indicated by Locke. We do not need to give a theorythat postulates any substances or processes specific to theexplanation of attention.
Adolescence, Attention Allocation, and Driving Safety
Locke’s modal view of attention has the consequence that no verysubstantive theory of attention is needed once our theory of thinkingis in place. It also entails, and for the same reason, that attentioncannot figure in the explanation of how thinking itself is possible(for any explanation in which it did figure would be analogous to anexplanation of walking that takes strolling to already be possible; itwould get its explanatory priorities backwards).
The third problem with the Johnston and Heinz definition is more practical, in that not everybody has adopted it (e.g. Best's definition just presented). This may seem an obvious point, but introduces an important and often overlooked idea: that different theories/models of attention necessarily entail different definitions of what attention is. It is all too easy to impose one's own conceptualisations on certain words (e.g. "attention", "awareness" and "consciousness") and compare theories using language which severely distorts the original theorist's conceptualisations. It is as if one were to compare and contrast a Jackson Pollock with a Raphael on one's own notions of "beauty", "meaning" and "harmony".
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From issues associated with a defintion of "attention", let me now move on to compare the clearest and the most influential bottleneck theories of selective attention: those of Broadbent (1958), Treisman (1960), and Deutsch and Deutsch (1963).
What Is Attention According to Psychologists?
Locke viewed attention as an explanatorily slight phenomenon—amode of thought that is not in need of much explanation, nor capableof providing much. Theories of attention moved away from that viewover the course of the eighteenth century. Attention was increasinglytreated as a phenomenon with explanatory work to do, and so as aphenomenon for which a substantive independent theory needed to begiven. The attempt to provide such a theory got properly underway in1738, when Christian Wolff’s textbook on psychology was thefirst to devote a whole chapter to the topic of attention (seeHatfield, 1995, for an excellent discussion).
Observed attention allocation processes in category …
Descartes and Berkeley treat attention very briefly, but each assignsattention to a particular explanatory role. Locke’s treatment ofattention is also brief, but he has his own theory of the explanatoryrole that attention plays, and he goes further than either Descartesor Berkeley in giving us a positive account of what attention is. Theaccount is given as part of the catalogue of ‘Modes ofThinking’ that Locke sets out towards the beginning of ChapterNineteen of Book Two of the Essay Concerning HumanUnderstanding:
The results revealed that the attention spreading hypothesis ..
We tested the hypothesis that, compared with sociosexually restricted individuals, those with an unrestricted approach to mating would selectively allocate visual attention to attractive opposite-sex others. We also tested for sex differences in this effect. Seventy-four participants completed the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory and performed a computer-based task that assessed the speed with which they detected changes in attractive and unattractive mate and female faces. Differences in reaction times served as indicators of selective attention. Results revealed a SexxSociosexuality interaction: Compared with sociosexually restricted men, unrestricted men selectively allocated attention to attractive opposite-sex others; no such effect emerged among women. This finding was specific to opposite-sex targets and did not occur in attention to same-sex others. These results contribute to a growing literature on the adaptive allocation of attention in social environments. (C)) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
translation and definition "selected attention", ..
In the century between Locke’s Essay andStewart’s Elements, then, attention ceases to be seenmerely as a certain mode of idea-handling, and comes to be seen as aphenomenon in need of its own explanation, and with a role to play inthe explanation of perception, in the explanation of memory (both inits storage and in its recall), and in the explanation of skilledaction.
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