The Psychology Behind Attention

Pay attention in class! Pay attention to me, when I am speaking!
We spent our childhood listening to these kinds of sentences from teachers and parents about paying attention in the classroom or at home when someone is speaking. As children are to flow to their minds in every direction possible.

So what exactly is attention?

Speaking in simple and general terms attention is focusing on something or someone specifically while in a proper definition attention is defined as the cognitive process of concentrating specifically on a particular thing, stimuli, or the surroundings in the environment, ignoring other present things. It forms a crucial basis for other cognitive functions such as learning, thinking, memory, perception, problem-solving, etc.

The study behind attention has been widely researched and has gathered the interest of experts from various fields of study such as psychology, biology, neuroscience, and computer science. Scientists and psychologists have been trying to solve the complex mystery behind the working human’s mental functioning involved in attention.
In this article, we will try to explain how It works and what it takes for the brain to unravel this amazing phenomenon.

Components of Attention:

It has several connected components that are linked together to work to form our experiences. The several components are as follows; Selective attention, Divided attention, sustained attention, and executive attention.

1. Selective Attention:

Selective attention is defined as the ability to focus on a particular stimulus and ignore the other stimulus that is present in the environment. Our mind filters the unwanted and unnecessary stimuli and inputs and chooses to focus only on the stimulus that we are interested in.
For example, talking to someone in a crowded wedding and focusing on their voice only while ignoring the background noise of other people.

2. Divided Attention:

It refers to the ability to arrange our attention to focus on multiple tasks at a time. It involves working on and performing different tasks simultaneously. If the tasks are too demanding, the performance is subjected to suffer since attention, which is divided into multiple things, has its limits. For example, Driving a car and talking to someone on a phone at the same time is multitasking, however, if the traffic gets too busy there is a risk of an accident for the person

3. Sustained Attention:

It is also known as vigilance. It has the ability to focus our attention on a stimulus for a prolonged period of time. In tasks that demand extended periods of concentration, such as studying for an exam, attending a lecture, solving a problem, etc., individuals actively employ it. Fatigue can disrupt it over time, thereby affecting performance. For example, Experimenting in a laboratory requires an extended period of attention.

4. Executive Attention:

As suggested by the word ‘executive’ this type of attention process involves the use of control and coordination to focus our concentration on stimuli. It requires attention to switch from one task to another and focus only on important pieces of information. Higher cognitive functions such as problem-solving, making decisions, planning something, etc., are involved.

Factors Affecting Attention

Several factors can influence the allocation and maintenance of attention:

1. Stimulus Factors:

    Features of the stimuli play an important role in the attention process. The intensity, importance, and newness of the stimulus can determine the attention. Interesting and exciting stimuli capture our attention more easily however normal and familiar require less focus,
    For example, For children, a new wanting a new colorful flavor of ice cream can catch more attention to them than the old plan classic vanilla ice cream.

    2. Internal Factors:

    Internal factors of humans such as emotions, motivation level, energy, etc can affect the focus of our attention. A person in a positive or negative mood would focus on the stimuli based on theirs. Similarly, the motivation level of a person drives a person to focus on a particular task.
    For example, A person who had a bad day at work would likely react in an uninterested way to the kid who is asking him to play with him.

    3. Individual Differences:

    Every individual reacts differently to a particular stimulus. Factors such as age, thinking ability, and neurological conditions can affect attention. People with disorders that impaired their thinking ability have different manners to react to stimuli such as patients with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

    Span of attention

    The span of attention is the amount of attention one can specifically give to any moment and consciously process that. It is also known as attention span. It can from person to person affected by factors such as age, motivation, fatigue, and other distractions of the environment
    Researchers nowadays say that our attention span has decreased by a significant amount due to factors such as a lethargic lifestyle and the use of smartphones and technologies, which are considered the most contributing factors to a person’s decreased attention and focus.

    Significance of attention processes

    Talking about attention outside our regular life, various professional jobs and tasks require people to put their undivided and highly focused attention given on a particular as such tasks require accurate results and precise work which needs our attention. For example, engineers, surgeons, pilots, architects, etc are the professions that require a detailed amount of focus to do their job.

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