attention


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attention

Psychol the act of concentrating on any one of a set of objects or thoughts

Attention

 

a characteristic of psychological activity that expresses itself in concentration and direction of the consciousness upon a fixed object. The direction of the consciousness is understood to mean the selective character of psychic activity—the choosing of a given object from a certain field of possible objects.

The three types of attention that may be distinguished are involuntary, voluntary, and postvoluntary attention. Involuntary, or passive, attention takes place when the selection of an object of activity is made without a previously set goal and without premeditation. If the selection is made consciously and intentionally, then the attention is voluntary or active. Voluntary attention is an act of the will; it is inherent only in man and came into being during the development of labor: “Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process of labor demands that, during the whole operation, the workman’s will be steadily in consonance with his purpose. This means close attention” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 189). An activity may engage a man in such a way that its accomplishment does not require special efforts of will from him; the presence of a goal in conjunction with an absence of efforts of will is characteristic of postvoluntary attention.

Attention arises, exists, and develops in activity and is a necessary condition for the activity to be consciously carried out. The direct cause of the arousal of attention is the meaningfulness for the personality of external stimuli (their subjective novelty, intensity, contrastive quality, etc.). The specific traits of attention are determined by means of the characteristics of persistence, range, distribution, and possibility of shifting of attention. The persistence of attention is the capacity to maintain an object of activity within the field of consciousness for a fixed period of time; moreover, the time interval of persistence may vary from fractions of a second to several hours. The range of attention is the number of objects that may be perceived and apprehended by a person within a relatively short space of time; range of attention may be determined with the aid of a tachistoscope. If the objects are discrete or not connected by any semantic link (for example, a group of letters of the alphabet), then the range of attention does not exceed 3 to 6; when a semantic link is present, the range increases greatly (for example, words or sentences). The distribution of attention is the capacity to maintain simultaneously in the field of consciousness objects of several different activities. The term “shifting of attention” refers to the peculiarities of switching in the field of consciousness from the objects of one activity to objects of another.

Attention became the object of intensive psychological study at the turn of the 20th century, when with its help attempts were made to explain the most diverse phenomena of the psyche. Because of this, the concept “attention” came to include a great number of different meanings. The original motor theory of attention was put forth by the Russian psychologist N. N. Lange, who related attention to the movements that a person performs during the perception or the imagination of an object. The materialistic treatment of attention was provided by the French psychologist T. Ribot, who conceived of attention as a series of adaptive reflexes. In present-day psychology a number of problems that have been studied previously in connection with attention are now examined within the framework of research in mental set and short-term (operative) memory. At the same time the study of attention has acquired enormous importance in connection with the creation of complex modern technical systems and man’s specific activity in their operation, which demands finely tuned and well-developed attention mechanisms. Attention is also studied in pedagogical psychology.

REFERENCES

Dobrynin, N. F. Vnimanie i ego vospitanie. Moscow, 1951.
Dobrynin, N. F. “Osnovnye voprosy psikhologii vnimaniia.” In Psikhologicheskaia nauka v SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
Ribot, T. Psikhologiia vnimaniia, 3rd ed. St. Petersburg, 1897. (Translated from French.)
Uznadze, D. N. “Problema vnimaniia (v svete teorii ustanovki).” In Psikhologiia, vol. 4. Tbilisi, 1947. (In Georgian, with a resume in Russian).

N. F. DOBRYNIN

References in classic literature ?
He confined his attentions to a careful search for the pouch, but nowhere upon or about the corpse was any sign of the missing article or its contents.
He had passed the lion but a short distance when his attention was called to the figure of a man lowering himself laboriously from the roof of a building upon the east side of the thoroughfare.
Then, extending the little volume, and giving the pitch of the air anew with considerate attention, David recommenced and finished his strains, with a fixedness of manner that it was not easy to interrupt.
The advance, with Heyward at its head, had already reached the defile, and was slowly disappearing, when the attention of Cora was drawn to a collection of stragglers by the sounds of contention.
They soon began to ascend; but as the motion had a tendency to revive the dormant faculties of her sister, the attention of Cora was too much divided between the tenderest solicitude in her behalf, and in listening to the cries which were still too audible on the plain, to note the direction in which they journeyed.
As they passed the gates, the French officers, who had learned their rank, bowed often and low, forbearing, however, to intrude those attentions which they saw, with peculiar tact, might not be agreeable.
It seemed that fate would play into their hands, for with the reports of the guns Jane Clayton's attention had been distracted from her unwilling assistants, and instead of keeping one eye upon them as she had intended doing, she ran to the bow of the Kincaid to peer through the darkness toward the source of the disturbance upon the river's bosom.
After the Russian and his party, which consisted of Paulvitch and the several men he had left upon the Kincaid to attend to the matter of coaling, had retreated before her fire, Jane realized that it would be but a temporary respite from their attentions which she had gained, and with the conviction came a determination to make a bold and final stroke for freedom from the menacing threat of Rokoff's evil purpose.
At the time when the racers had to go to the pavilion to receive the prizes, and all attention was directed to that point, Vronsky's elder brother, Alexander, a colonel with heavy fringed epaulets, came up to him.
The strong, exquisite, perfectly correct lines of the stallion, with his superb hind-quarters and excessively short pasterns almost over his hoofs, attracted Vronsky's attention in spite of himself.
Wherever Chromatistes, -- for by that name the most trustworthy authorities concur in calling him, -- turned his variegated frame, there he at once excited attention, and attracted respect.
When you start treating your attention as your most valuable resource, you'll protect it.