Monday, July 8, 2024

Types of Attention

 Focused Attention

Focused attention is what most people would define as paying attention. This is the type of attention that concentrates on a single task and excludes everything else. This can be done while studying or working on a project. Focused attention is difficult to maintain because it is not a natural human state, and it operates on a physiological level. Constant focused attention actually makes people tired. 

Sustained Attention

Sustained attention is the type of attention that people use to focus on a particular task that takes time. It is also called the attention span. For example, reading a book requires sustained attention. The brain uses sustained attention to process information and adapt to different situations. Problems with sustained attention occur when there are distractions that keep someone from completing the task at hand. Most people need to refocus and return to the task after 20 minutes. There are three stages of sustained attention:

1. Grab attention

2. Keep attention

3. End attention

In order to sustain attention, it is important to remove distractions and occasionally refocus. 

Selective Attention

Selective attention is what people use when they pay attention to a single stimulus in a complex setting. Having a conversation in a crowded restaurant is an example of selective attention. It is not possible to pay attention to every stimulus that surrounds us. The ability to filter out background noise and focus on one object or message is essential when we are consistently bombarded with information. The drawback to selective attention occurs when people disregard what is happening around them.

Alternating Attention

Occasionally people need to perform two tasks that require different cognitive abilities at the same time. These situations require alternating attention. An example of this would be taking notes during a lecture. In order to use alternating attention, the mind needs to be flexible and move between one task and another seamlessly. Alternating attention means that the work on each task is quick and accurate as the brain transitions. 

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

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