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Focused Attention

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An aspect of attention that brings a select amount of information into conscious awareness.

Historical Background

Fundamental research in attention emerged in the 1950s1956 with the rise of cognitive psychology and theories that involved process such as attention, memory, and perception that do not involve directly observable behavior (e.g., Miller, 1956; Broadbent, 1957).

Current Knowledge

Focused attention has been described within the context of theories of attention, working memory, executive function, and consciousness. Baddeley (1993) proposed that the central executive in his model of working memory may function as Norman and Shallice’s (1986) Supervisory Attentional System, such that it generates higher level schemas that override lower level, automatic, or environmentally generated schemas to achieve internally produced goals. These temporary active schemas are held online within the episodic buffer and form the focus of attention. Some researchers further specify...

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References and Readings

  • Baddeley, A. D. (1993). Working memory or working attention? In A. D. Baddeley & L. Weiskrantz (Eds.), Attention: Selection, awareness, and control: A tribute to Donald Broadbent. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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  • Broadbent, D. E. (1957) A mechanical model for human attention and immediate memory. Psychological Review, 64, 205–215.

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  • Cohen, R. (1993). The neuropsychology of attention. New York: Plenum.

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  • Cowan, N. (1988). Evolving conceptions of memory storage, selective attention, and their mutual constraints within the human information processing system. Psychological Bulletin, 104, 163–191.

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  • Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two. Psychological Review, 63, 81–97.

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  • Norman, D., & Shallice, T. (1986). Attention to action: Willed and automatic control of behaviour. In R. J. Davidson, G. E. Schwartz, & D. E. Shapiro (Eds.), Consciousness and self-regulation: Advances in research and theory(Vol. 4, pp. 1–18). New York: Plenum.

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  • Sohlberg, M., & Mateer, C. A. (1989). Introduction to cognitive rehabilitation: Theory and practice. New York: Guilford Press.

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MacKay-Brandt, A. (2011). Focused Attention. In: Kreutzer, J.S., DeLuca, J., Caplan, B. (eds) Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. Springer, New York, NY.

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