Attention: Some theoretical considerations

  • Deutsch J
  • Deutsch D
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Abstract

The selection of wanted from unwanted messages requires discriminatory mechanisms of as great a complexity as those in normal perception, as is indicated by behavioral evidence. The results of neurophysiology experiments on selective attention are compatible with this supposition. This presents a difficulty for Filter theory. Another mechanism is proposed, which assumes the existence of a shifting reference standard, which takes up the level of the most important arriving signal. The way such importance is determined in the system is further described. Neurophysiological evi-dence relative to this postulation is discussed. There has, in the last few years, been an increase in the amount of research devoted to the problem of attention, which has been sum-marized in Broadbent's (1958) important work. Whilst psychologists have been investigating the behavioral aspects of attention, suggestive evidence has also been found by neurophysiol-ogists. We feel that it would be useful at this time to consider the theoretical implications of some of this research. Our paper is divided into three parts. In the first we consider some of the behavioral find-ings on attention. In the second a system is pro-posed to account for various features of this behavior. Although we do not consider it nec-essary to identify a system of this type with par-ticular neural structures (see Deutsch, 1960) since a machine embodying such a system would also display the behavior we wish to explain, we do, however, venture some tenta-tive hypotheses concerning the neural identifi-cation of the proposed system.

Author-supplied keywords

  • ATTENTION & SET
  • ATTENTION, THEORIES OF, & NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR
  • MOTIVATION, & SYMBOL SUBSTITUTION, & REMINISCENCE
  • THEORY, OF ATTENTION, & NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR

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Authors

  • J. A. Deutsch

  • D. Deutsch

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