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Selective Attention

Robin L. Nabi


Selective attention refers to the differential processing of multiple sources of information that are available at the same time ( Johnston & Dark 1986 ; →  Information Processing ; Attention ). These information sources are generally in the external environment, though they need not be. For example, internal information sources, like →  Memory , may also hold attention. Further, selective attention refers not simply to the orientation toward one message or stimulus rather than another, but also to the focus on parts of a message rather than other parts (often referred to as selective processing; →  Selective Perception and Selective Retention ). Although attention may certainly be drawn to an object or message via its sensory-stimulating features (e.g., its appearance), most research on selective attention focuses on the characteristics of individuals that might cause them to direct their attention to one stimulus rather than another. It is also of note that attention can be either automatic or controlled. That is, sometimes one's attention is drawn to stimuli by forces outside conscious awareness. Other times, people may actively choose what to attend to and what to avoid. Ultimately, selective attention has been an important focus for cognitive psychologists because it is generally accepted that what people attend to has implications for how they orient to their environment, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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