Lectures 15 and 16: Attention and Multitasking

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What is Selective Attention?
The process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time. Attention is limited, so selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what matter.
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How do we decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore?
Like a highlighter - it stands out and you can focus attention there. A bottleneck restricts rate of flow, more narrow = less flow.
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What are Broadbent and Treisman's Models of Attention?
Bottleneck models because they predict that we cannot consciously attend to all of our sensory input at the same time. The limited capacity for paying attention is therefore a bottleneck, models try to explain how material is selected to pass.
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What is selective auditory attention?
Cherry - "cocktail party" effect - zone in on some conversations but not others. Can pay attention to one message and repeat it back, but unable to say anything about contents of other message.
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What do participants notice and not notice about things in auditory attention tasks?
Don't notice if unattended message switched from english to german mid message or suddenly played backwards. But do notice if it switched from male to female or was swapped with 400-hz tone.
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Explain Broadbent's 1958 filter model as a theory of selective attention.1
Built on research by Cherry. Used information-processing metaphor to describe human attention. Suggested our capacity to process information is limited, and information to process takes place early in perceptual process.
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Explain Broadbent's 1958 filter model as a theory of selective attention.2
To do this we utilise a filter to determine which info to attend to. All stimuli processed on terms of physical property: colour, loudness, direction and pitch - some stimuli will be rejected.
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Explain Broadbent's 1958 filter model as a theory of selective attention.3
Argued info from all stimuli present at one time enter buffer zone, one input then goes through first step described in previous. Filter is designed to stop overloading due to small capacity.
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What where Broadbent's experiments?
Dichotic listening and split-span with air traffic controllers in war. Send 3-digit number to one ear, then different one to other, asked to listen to both and repeat. Fewer mistakes made by repeating ear by ear = 'filter model'
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What is Broadbent's theory of semantic processing?
Thought processing was carried out after filter had selected what to pay attention to, so unattended ear info is not understood.
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What are the two additional assumptions Broadbent made?
Filter is all or nothing, and is structural bottleneck.
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What are 'memory selection models' as a theory of selective attention?1
Found Broadbent's model insufficient. If you heard your name in a conversation across the room, you attended to that info, even though it was a previously unattended stimulus.
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What are 'memory selection models' as a theory of selective attention?2
... According to this theory, both unattended and attended messages pass through initial filter and then sorted at second stage based on meaning of content. If we attend to info, based on meaning, it goes into STM
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What is Treisman's Attenuation Theory as a theory of selective attention?1
Suggested that Broadbent's initial approach is correct but failed to account for those who can process meaning of unattended messages. Proposed that instead of filter, attention works by an attenuator identifying a stimulus for physical or meaning.
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What is Treisman's Attenuation Theory as a theory of selective attention?2
... like a volume control. Can turn down volume of other sources to attend to single source- volume might be low but is still present. If unattended words are salient they can activate meanings. Pps able to identify contents of unattended messages.
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What are resource theories of selective attention?
More recent. Focus on attention being limited resource and then divided amongst competing sources of info. Think we have a fixed amount of attention and we must choose how to allocate.
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What are the criticisms of resource theories of selective attention?
Critiqued for being overly broad and vague, but do compliment filter theories.
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What do we know about observations and selective attention?
Location influences SA. Pashler (1998) - simply presenting messages to different ears does not lead to selection of one message over the other. Must have some non-overlap in time for one to be selectively attended to. Changes in pitch play role.
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What is the Spotlight Model for Selective Visual Attention?
William James - spotlight includes focal point (clearly seen) and then area around is fringe(visible but not clear). Area around fringe is margin.
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What is the Zoom Lens Model for Selective Visual Attention?
Same elements as spotlight models but also suggests we can increase or decrease size of focus. Larger focus = slower processing as more info, so limited attention resources distributed over wider area.
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What do we know about Visual Attention in Dynamic Scenes and Inattentional Blindness?
Perceptual Blindness - psychological lack of attention, not associated with vision deficit. Like practical - Simon did same and found high salient events in unattended stream missed by 50% of pps.
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What is the attentional spotlight?
Posner et al 1980 - when location is attended to, spotlight is engaged at location. TO pay attention to new location, spotlight has to be disengaged from current location, move across display and engage at new locations.
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What is the association between early selection in the Primary Visual Cortex and the LGN?
LGN is relay centre in thalamus and visual pathway. fMRI BOLD signal voxels reacts to red lines vs black lines - some selection occurs in very early processing. So visual selection not all or nothing, is gradient across visual field.
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What was the Flanker task?
Set of response inhibition tests to assess ability to suppress responses that are inappropriate.
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What are the functions of selective attention - visual and auditory?
Defensive filtering: protecting high-level capacity systems (Broadbent). Positive Selection: prioritising one of several possible objects or sources (Allport). Feature integration/binding: combining properties of object analysed in cortical maps.
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What is the feature-integration theory? (Very influential model)
Treisman and Gelade made in 1980. Suggests when we perceive stimulus, features are registered early, automatically and in parallel, which objects identified separately at later stage.
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What are the limits to cognitive capacity?
Take time, only input in one process at a time, storage capacity is limited.
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What do we know about competition for shared resources?
Dual-task interference: when we switch between tasks include: Retrospective memory = where was I? Prospective memory = monitoring for trigger (is it time to do?) OR remembering meaning of trigger (what do I do now?)
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What are some other demands on executive control?
Planning, scheduling, coordinating, prioritising. Trouble-shooting and problem solving. Executive control processes are critical for multitasking.
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What is an example of the importance of executive control?
Mobile phone - increased accidents, delays in braking, impaired braking, detection of potential hazards later. Study: baseline vs alcohol vs on handsfree - mobile users slower reaction, more collision, slower recovery. Alcohol more aggressive.
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What are the possible sources of dual-task interference?
Competition for use of specialised domain-specific resources: parts of body (sense organs) and brain modules (processes) 2. Competition for general-purpose processing capacity: central processer and pool of resource. 3. Limited capacity of E-control
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What do we know about competition for domain-specific resources?
Two continuous speech inputs cannot simultaneously be understood or repeated. Performing visual imagery task interferes with performance of spatial tracking - both use V-S memory. So two tasks use same mechanism = dual-task interference.
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What is the General-purpose resource pool?
Kahneman (1975) - proposed pool of general purpose resource. Capacity may vary: over people, within people: diminishes with boredom/fatigue, increases with time of day/stressors/arousal.
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What would happen if there was a central processor whose capacity could be shared by any two tasks?
Sum of capacity demands does not exceed total = no interference. Does exceed = a) interference, b) increasing difficulty of one task decreases capacity available for other task. Hard to know how much capacity should be given to what.
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What did Shaffer (1975) find?
A case of demanding tasks combined with interference - found skilled visual copy-typing can be combined with shadowing of prose without interference.
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What if there was no central general-purpose processor?
Pairs of complex input-output translation tasks can be combined with no interference if they use non-overlapping processes. Non needed for competition of central processor. Even when tasks use different modules, some interference may arise.
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Why is practice important?
Tasks which cannot be combined without interference become easier to combine with practice e.g. changing gear. Spelke Hirst and Neisser (1976) after 85 hours of practice at: reading stories while writing dictation, pps had small dual-task interfence
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What is the psychological refractory period (PRP)?
Two choice reaction-time tasks - stimulus onsets separated by variable, very short interval. PRP effects, robust to practice, occurs even when stimuli and responses for two tasks in different forms.
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What did Pashler (1990) argue about PRP?
Capacity limitation must be in central translation processes. Response selection performed for one task at a time. If second stimulus arrives and is identified, must wait until response selection mechanism is free.
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What are the problems with suggestions about PRP?
There are RT pair tasks where no interference is observed. When observed, PRP effect could arise not from structure, but cautious control strategy that participants adopt to avoid producing response to second stimulus first.
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How do we decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore?

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Like a highlighter - it stands out and you can focus attention there. A bottleneck restricts rate of flow, more narrow = less flow.

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What are Broadbent and Treisman's Models of Attention?

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What is selective auditory attention?

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What do participants notice and not notice about things in auditory attention tasks?

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