In this essay we will critically analyze the famous philosopher, William James' views on attention. James appears to be right when he describes anyone in this condition is not paying attention. When describing attention as the mind's taking possession of an object in clear and vivid form, we are given a description that best suits the highest level of attention. This view, from the era of introspection, has since been empirically researched, and therefore in cognitive science we look for minimal attention in the state of distraction so vividly described in the above statement. Upon understanding James's statement, to evaluate it we must come to understand what attention is. Attention can be defined as an ability to focus and maintain interest in a given task or idea, including managing distractions.
[...] At a critical juncture during the task, material on the unattended ear was more consistent with the message on the attended ear, causing participants to frequently switch and inadvertently repeat some words from the unattended channel. Although the filter is employed to purify physical characteristics of the message such as location, pitch and intensity, some information on the unattended channel is processed. Recognition of words occurs when the intensity of the message exceeds certain thresholds. Material on the attended channel usually exceeds threshold through not being attenuated (or reduced) by the filter; however information on the unattended channel may be recognized if the words become relevant to us through having a lower threshold. [...]
[...] Using the multimode model to make a definitive statement in sympathy with both theories, one might suggest if we filter out unimportant information at an early stage of processing, then more attention remains available in order to perform more important tasks. The definition of attention by James implies we can only attend to one thing at a time. Although people try to attend to several things at once, our ability to do so is clearly limited. The capacity model of attention (Kahneman cited in) considers such cognitive limits in explaining the limits of attention, how the selection process may work and what causes failure. [...]
[...] (1972) who were opposed to the theory of a single general-purpose attention mechanism. They presented a theory that proposed several different mechanisms exist, and operate depending on the information processed, which is demonstrated by participants shadowing a spoken message whilst trying to learn a list of words presented via headphones. Findings revealed learning the word list did not occur; however when the learning task was changed from auditory stimuli to visual stimuli, recall occurred with minimal error. Attention theories to this point have been concerned with listening tasks, and the possibility arose that unattended information is being actively searched for leading to the effectiveness of auditory shadowing becoming questioned. [...]
[...] (1978) Flexibility and capacity demands of attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 420-435 Moray, N. (1959) Attention in dichotic listening: Affective cues and the influences of instructions. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 55-60. Nielsen, L.I. and Sarason, I.G. (1981) Emotion, personality and selective attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 945-960. Parkin, A.J. (2000) Essential Cognitive Psychology. Hove, UK: Psychology Press Ltd Shiffrin, R.M. and Schneider, W. (1977) Controlled and automatic [...]
[...] With relation to the attention spans of children, it is quite normal to find they are shorter to that of adults before differences diminish as a child ages. A small percentage of the child population display an inability to maintain sustained attention, and coupled with unusually high levels of activity, has been recognized as a behavioral disorder classified as ‘attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder'. Direct and immediate causes of ADHD are unknown, however advances in neurological imaging techniques and genetics promise to clarify this issue in the near future. [...]
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