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Conscious and Unconscious Processes in Attention

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Conscious and Unconscious Processes in Attention. Vaughan Bell [email protected] Outline. Attention and Consciousness Cognitive models of attention Bottleneck Models Capacity / Resource Models Neuropsychological models of attention Spatial Attention and Neglect

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Presentation Transcript
slide2

Outline

  • Attention and Consciousness
  • Cognitive models of attention
    • Bottleneck Models
    • Capacity / Resource Models
  • Neuropsychological models of attention
    • Spatial Attention and Neglect
    • Attention to Action and the Dysexecutive Syndrome
slide3

Attention and Consciousness

  • “Paying attention to something” typically refers to one of two things:
    • Being selective about what we concentrate on
    • The notion that we can attend to a limited amount of things at once.
  • This suggests we can make things more or less conscious by focusing on them, or ignoring them.
  • It could be described as focusing our information processing resources on certain stimuli or actions.
slide4

Attention and Consciousness

  • It is now becoming clear that we also need to know about how and how much of the ‘ignored’ information we process.
  • Data informing our theories of attention have come from two main areas:
    • Cognitive models of attention from studies on healthy participants
    • Neuropsychological models of attention from studies on brain injured patients
slide5

Bottleneck Models

  • Selective attention tasks have been crucial in driving the development of bottleneck models.
  • It involves the focusing on one task to the exclusion of irrelevant stimuli.
slide6

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slide8

Cocktail Party Effect

  • Allows us to pick out a single conversation among a number of others.
  • Cherry (1953) simulated this by playing two streams of speech, one to each ear.
  • Participants were asked to repeat the speech in one ear, and then were asked about the other.
  • He showed that people might know whether the other voice was male or female.
  • But might not know what was said, or what language the speaker was talking in.
slide9

Broadbent’s Filter Model

  • Donald Broadbent (1958) proposed a filter model of attention to account for these findings.
  • He argued that we filter out sensory information before it reaches short term memory.
  • And that this filtering is based on the physical characteristics of the stimuli.
  • Rather than any semantic content.
slide10

Broadbent’s Filter Model

  • In this model, meaning is only processed when we become conscious of the stimuli.
  • i.e. after is has got through the filter.
slide11

Criticisms

  • e.g. Von Wright et al (1975) paired certain words with electric shocks.
  • Because of conditioning, the words caused a fear response on their own, measurable by GSR.
  • Using Cherry’s technique, Von Wright found conditioned words in the ignored ear still produced GSR response, even without awareness.
  • Showing that some meaning must be processed before awareness, and that Broadbent’s model cannot be entirely correct.
slide12

Treisman’s Attenuator Model

  • e.g. Treisman’s (1964) alternative argued that instead of a strict filter, processing was attenuated (reduced) for the unattended stimuli.
  • Therefore, some processing of meaning could take place, albeit in a much reduced fashion.
  • Accounting for why conditioned words could still cause a fear response when ‘ignored’.
  • But full sentences could not be understood.
slide13

Treisman’s Attenuator Model

  • In this model, some analysis of meaning can take place, although it is attenuated.
  • Even if we are not aware of it in full.
slide14

Late Selection Models

  • The last two are known as ‘early selection models’ because information is selected before it reaches awareness and short term memory.
  • Deutsch and Deutsch (1963) have argued for a ‘late selection model’.
  • This is where all information reaches short term memory, but the selection happens at that point.
  • Supported by experiments that have shown quite sophisticated semantic analysis can happen with unattended stimuli.
slide15

Capacity or Resource Models

  • These argue that we only have so many attentional resources that we can use at once.
  • When we have ‘run out’ we start missing stimuli or making errors on tasks.
  • Studies have examined the process of carrying out two (or more) tasks at once.
  • This is known as divided attention and these tasks have been important in driving capacity theories.
slide16

Capacity or Resource Models

  • They may seem similar to bottleneck models but have a crucial difference.
  • Bottleneck models argue for serial processing in streams.
  • Switching tasks involves focusing a single serial stream to another task.
  • Capacity models argue that we can process several tasks in parallel, but each more slowly because of the additional information to deal with.
slide17

Application: Psychopathy

  • Psychopathy is a forensic diagnosis given to people who:
    • Commit persistently anti-social acts
    • Without feelings or remorse, empathy, guilt or responsibility
    • Despite having normal IQ, good reasoning abilities and low levels of neurosis and anxiety.
  • Studies suggest that some psychopaths have trouble with selective attention.
slide18

Application: Psychopathy

  • Perhaps with over-focused attention:
  • “I always know damn well I shouldn\'t do these things … it\'s just that when the time comes I don\'t think of anything else. I don\'t think of anything but what I want now”
  • Hiatt et al (2004) used various versions of the Stroop Task to test selective attention.
  • The Stroop Task involves ignoring an automatically processed stimulus to name a conflicting attribute.
slide19

Stroop Task I

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XXXX

XXXX

XXXX

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slide20

Stroop Task II

Red

Green

Blue

Yellow

Green

Red

Green

Blue

Yellow

Green

Red

Blue

Yellow

slide21

Hiatt et al (2004)

  • People tend to be significantly slower with the second version because of the conflict.
  • They found that psychopathic offenders showed a normal effect for the standard Stroop task.
  • But showed much less of an effect than controls (i.e. were quicker) when the components were spatially separated. e.g:

RED

slide22

Hiatt et al (2004)

  • In other words, they may have differences in attentional filtering or attenuating, particularly involving context.
  • e.g: anti-social acts may seem like the most direct solution to a particular problem
  • And other contextual concerns (e.g. pain caused to the victim or consequences) may be less consciously available as a result.
slide23

Neuropsychological Models

  • Largely derived from studies of people with brain injury who no longer seem to be able to do certain attentional tasks.
  • Such as orienting, focusing, multi-tasking and so on.
slide24

Neglect

  • Hemi-spatial neglect is one such disorder which particularly occurs after right parietal damage.
  • [ Sacks excerpt, p73 ]
slide28

Spatial Attention

  • This suggests we have attention for particular parts of space.
  • If the part of the brain is damaged which represents this, we can lose the ability to represent it both perceptually and conceptually.
  • It can be thought of as being consciously inaccessible.
slide29

Posner Cueing Paradigm

  • Posner (1980) has argued that we can demonstrate the orienting of spatial attention independent of eye movements.
  • In other words, a demonstration of covert attention.
  • [Posner demo]
slide30

Posner Cueing Paradigm

  • Falsely cued trials (where the box appears on the other side from the X) produce longer responses.
  • Even though we have been told to ignore the box.
  • This suggests are attention is being unconsciously drawn to a part of space…
  • …and we have to disengage to respond appropriately.
slide31

Covert Attention

  • This covert or unconscious attention to a part of space may be damaged in neglect.
  • Making patients with neglect unaware that they cannot represent parts of space.
slide32

Attention to Action

  • As actions become more practised they tend to become more automatic and less conscious.
  • e.g. driving, typing etc
  • However, at times we need to be able to exercise precise or conscious control over normally automatic actions.
  • Among others, Norman and Shallice (1980) have argued for an executive system that manages other cognitive processes and actions.
slide33

Dysexecutive Syndrome

  • This is thought to break down quite dramatically after certain sorts of brain injury. e.g:
  • Utilisation behaviour is where people are unable to inhibit actions triggered by their environment.
  • e.g. being unable to not drink hot coffee if it’s place in front of them.
  • Akinetic mutism where people can’t initiate self-willed action, although they can act reactively.
  • Or general planning and action organisation problems.
slide34

Norman and Shallice’s Model

  • Norman and Shallice (1980) model of the executive system attempts to account for both actions becoming automatic…
  • …and conscious control where necessary.
  • It is based on two pivotal components:
    • Contention Scheduling
    • Supervisory Attentional System
slide35

Norman and Shallice (1980)

  • Contention scheduler:
    • Mediates the effect of environmental triggers.
    • To select appropriate actions or ‘action scripts’ called schemas.
    • Uses mutual inhibition.
slide36

Norman and Shallice (1980)

  • Supervisory Attentional System:
    • Intervenes in non-routine situations.
    • When actions have to be altered, initiated or inhibited during non-routine situations.
    • Much more of a conscious process.
slide37

Norman and Shallice (1980)

S A S

Contention

Scheduler

Trigger

Data

Base

Sensory

Perceptual

Information

Environment

Action

slide38

Norman and Shallice (1980)

  • This system provides a theoretical basis for the executive system.
  • And accounts for dysexecutive behaviour. e.g.
  • Utilisation behaviour is a failure in the SAS, so irrelevant routine actions are not inhibited.
  • Akinetic mutism is a failure of the contention scheduler to initiate schemas to triggers.
slide39

Application: Role in Schizophrenia

  • Executive dysfunction has been cited as one of the core deficits in schizophrenia (Chan et al. 2004)
  • And one of the key predictors of outcome in terms of work and the activities of daily living (Velligan et al, 2000).
slide40

Conclusions

  • Different theories of attention have been developed from observations of healthy and impaired people.
  • Although these are largely complementary.
  • All theories reflect the idea that we have a limited ability to focus our information processing abilities on certain tasks.
  • And make them more or less conscious.
slide41

Conclusions

  • Cognitive theories
    • Bottleneck models (Broadbent, Treisman, late selection theories)
    • Capacity theories
  • Neuropsychological theories
    • Spatial attention
    • Executive system
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