Attention to Action

Willed and Automatic Control of Behavior
  • Donald A. Norman
  • Tim Shallice


Much effort has been made to understand the role of attention in perception; much less effort has been placed on the role attention plays in the control of action. Our goal in this chapter is to account for the role of attention in action, both when performance is automatic and when it is under deliberate conscious control. We propose a theoretical framework structured around the notion of a set of active schemas, organized according to the particular action sequences of which they are a part, awaiting the appropriate set of conditions so that they can become selected to control action. The analysis is therefore centered around actions, primarily external actions, but the same principles apply to internal actions—actions that involve only the cognitive processing mechanisms. One major emphasis in the study of attentional processes is the distinction between controlled and automatic processing of perceptual inputs (e.g., Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977). Our work here can be seen as complementary to the distinction between controlled and automatic processes: we examine action rather than perception; we emphasize the situations in which deliberate, conscious control of activity is desired rather than those that are automatic.


Action Sequence Attentional Resource Dual Task Psychological Refractory Period Human Information Processing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald A. Norman
    • 1
  • Tim Shallice
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Cognitive ScienceUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Applied Psychology UnitMedical Research CouncilCambridgeEngland

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