Theories Of Visual And Auditory Attention

2402 words - 10 pages

A popular subject within psychology is that of selective attention, particularly visual, auditory or visual and auditory attention (Driver, 2001). There are many theories of visual and auditory attention that provide us with a greater understanding of the ways in which humans attend to different stimuli (Driver, 2001), such as Broadbent’s (1958) filter theory of attention for example. This essay will compare and contrast theories of visual and auditory attention as well as discussing how well these theories explain how we attend to objects. The essay will consist of three auditory attention theories of Broadbent’s filter theory, Treisman’s (1964) attenuation theory, and Deutsch and Deutsch’s (1963) late selection model of attention; and two models of visual attention known as the spotlight model, such as Treisman and Gelade’s (1980) feature integration model, and the zoom-lens model of visual attention (see Styles, 2006).

Broadbent’s (1958) filter theory of attention proposes that there is a filter device between sensory identification and short-term memory. This filter is used as a buffer that allows an individual to manage several different forms of simultaneous stimuli where one stimulus is processed in the filter whilst the second stimulus is kept in the buffer to be processed at a later time (Broadbent, 1958). The extent to which this theory of attention can provide an effective explanation of how we attend to objects is questionable due to the fact that Broadbent’s filter theory is designed to explain auditory attention as opposed to visual attention. In this sense, Broadbent’s filter theory cannot explain how we attend to objects and thus provides no useful information for such attention. An object was making a sound could be attended providing that it was simultaneously attended to with the use of visual systems. However, Shinn-Cunningham (2008, p.182-186) argues that auditory objects can be understood in terms of non-physical objects in that auditory objects are sounds, such as, a word. Furthermore, Shinn-Cunningham proposes that auditory perception is similar to visual perception and thus can be understood in terms of visual attention theories. In light of this, it can be argued that an individual selectively attends to an auditory object in much the same way that the individual would attend to a visual object.

The attenuation theory of attention is a modified version of the filter theory, which was proposed by Treisman (1964, p.449-459) that argues that stimuli, particularly words, of high importance and relevance to the individual is most often selected for processing. In addition to this, this theory argues that unattended information is not always lost, just attenuated (Treisman, 1964, p.449-459). On a similar note to that of Broadbent’s (1958) filter theory of attention, the attenuation theory has only a limited scope in providing an adequate explanation for how we attend to objects because this is an extension of filter...

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