Divided Attention in Cognitive Psychology

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Divided Attention in Cognitive Psychology

Anytime when you are engaged in two or more tasks at the same time, your attention is divided between those tasks and it is called as divided attention. For example, have you ever been driving with a friend and the two of you were involved in an exciting conversation? Or have made dinner while on the phone with a friend? and so on.

Divided Attention Theory


In order to know our capacity to divide our attention, researchers have developed capacity models of attention. These models actually help to explain how we can perform more than one attention-demanding task simultaneously. They suggest that people have a fixed amount of attention that they can choose to assign according to what the task requires. There are two different classes:

  1. One kind of model proposes that there is one single pool of attentional resources that can be divided freely.
  2. The other model proposes that there are multiple sources of attention as shown below

Divided Attention

The figure shows examples of the two kinds of models. In section (a), the system has a single pool of resources that can be divided up, among multiple tasks. It now seems that such a model denotes an over simplification. Usually, people are much better at dividing their attention when competing tasks are in diverse modalities. At least some attentional resources might be exact to the modality in which a task is presented. Let’s take some examples most people easily can listen to music and focus on writing simultaneously. But it is really harder to listen to the news station and concentrate on writing at the same time. The reason is that both are verbal tasks.

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The words from the news restrict with the words you are thinking about. Likewise, two visual tasks are more probable to interfere with each other than are a visual task combined with an auditory one. Section (b) of Figure above shows a model that allows for attentional resources to be exact to a given modality.

 

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