Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

pp 859-860

Directed Attention

  • Ronald A. CohenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, The Miriam Hospital Brown University


Directed attention is the allocation of attention in a “directed” manner to specific information or cognitive processes.

A variety of terms have been used over the years to characterize the varieties of attentional experience, including selective, focused, sustained, divided, split, and directed attention. Some of these terms continue to be widely used to describe elementary component processes underlying attention; most notably selective, focused, and sustained attention, while others like directed and divided attention are best viewed as related to these more fundamental component processes. Directed attention denotes the fact that attention can be focused selectively in a sustained way, though it probably is best thought of as a composite of other more basic forms of attention. Directed attention often implies an “intentional” or overt focusing of attention, in contrast to more covert reactive forms of attention driven by the stimuli that occur. An example of this ...

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