Chapter 3: Attention and Performance

serial bottlenecks

the point in the path from perception to action at which people cannot process all the incoming information in parallel

early-section theories

a theory of attention stating that serial bottlenecks occur early in information processing

late-selection theories

a theory of attention stating that serial bottlenecks occur late in information processing. An example is Deutsch and Deutsch's theory, according to whichall sensory information can be processed, but our ability to respond to that information has attentio


the allocations of cognitive resources among ongoing processes.

goal-directed attention

allocation of processing resources in reponse to one's goals

stimulus-driven attention

allocation of processing resources in response to a salient stimulus.

dichotic listening task

a task in which participants in an experiment are presented with two messages simultaneously, one to each ear, and are instructed to repeat back the words from only one of them.

filter theory

Broadbent's early-selection theory of attention, which assumes that, when sensory information has to pass through a bottleneck, only some of the information is selected for further processing, on the basis of physical characteristics such as the pitch of

attenuation theory

Treisman's theory of attention, which proposes that we weaken some incoming sensory signals on the basis of their physical characteristics.

binding problem

the question of how the brain determines which features in the visual field go together to form an object

feature-integration theory

Treisman's proposal that one must focus attention on a set of features before the individual features can be synthesized into a pattern.

illusory conjunction

the illusion that features of different objects actually came from a single object.

inhibition of return

the decreased ability to return our attention to a location or an object that we have already looked at.

perfect time-sharing

the ability to pursue more than one task at the same time

central bottleneck

the inability of central cognition to pursue mutiple lines of though simultaneously


the ability to perform a task with little or no central cognitive control

executive control

the direction of central cognition, which is carried out mainly by the prefrontal regions of the brain.

dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)

upper portion of the prefrontal cortex thought to be important in cognitive control

anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)

medial portion of the prefrontal cortex important in control and dealing with conflict.

Stroop effect

a phenomenon in which the tendency to name a word will interfere with the ability to say the color in which the word is printed.

space-based attention

allocation of attention to visual information in a region of space.

object-based attention

allocation of attention to chunks of visual information corresponding to an object.