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Attention and visual search

Have you ever traveled a familiar route while so lost in thought that you barely experienced the details of the trip itself? Compare this to an experience in which you had to pay attention to a specific set of directions to get to a location you had never visited. How did the characteristics of each situation affect your experience? As these examples show, attention exerts important influence over perception.
Cultural and societal influences also affect attention. Consider DeGloma and Friedman's (2005) example of "thieves and FBI agents [evading detection by posing] as garbage collectors" (p. 17). This strategy may work to conceal identity by leveraging societal views of blue-collar workers as people less worthy of attention. Because of the "invisibility" of such workers in the eyes of many, some may not register the existence of a unique personality within a uniform.
In this Discussion, think about theories of attention as well as cultural and social variables. Consider the relationship between all of these factors and cognition.

With these thoughts in mind:

1. A brief comparison of one early theory of attention to the Guided Search theory of attention.
2. Then describe how these theories apply to visual search.
3. Finally, describe one cultural and one social variable that might influence attention and explain how.

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1. A brief comparison of one early theory of attention to the Guided Search theory of attention.

Guided search can be described as a model of human visual search performance, specifically of search tasks in which an observer looks for a target object among some number of distracting items: (Wolf, 2006, p. 99). Wolf explains two mechanism of this search based on guided search: (a) search, and (b) parallel. Based on serial search, attention is focused on only one object; allowing each object to be classified as either a target or distractor (Sternberg, 2006 as cited in Wolf, 2006). Based on parallel models, all items are processed at the same time. To explain the comparison between Guided search theories and earlier attention theories, both relate to the relationship between information and/or perception and attention. For instance, studies suggest that information such as sensations become available through sensory information that allows an individual to recognize events and objects in which a previous stimulus has been presented. This previous stimulus or "priming" makes the target easier to recognize (Sternberg, 2006).

Thus, information can be suppressed or selectively brought into consciousness. Selective attention indicates focusing on a specific aspect or experience such as the ability to study while listening to music or making decisions while driving, or listening to a speaker in a crowded room. In another example, heightened distractibility have been reviewed by examining persons with severe closed head injuries and attributed their deficits to recall and/or recognize targets to the absence of selective attention (Ries & Williams, 2005). Another earlier theory-- the Similarity theory refers to the reason that it is easier to read long strings of text in lowercase than uppercase letters is because lower case letters are similar in appearance (Sternberg, 2006).

Based on another theory, some students are able to study while listening to music. In this example, students assert that they can ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the attention components of a visual search.