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Attention is the behavioral and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on a discrete aspect of information; it is “the concentration of mental effort on sensory or mental events (Gross, 2009). Selective attention is attending to one thing rather than another. Cocktail party syndrome is switching our attention to something that was previously unattended. Attentional capacity is how many things we can attend to at the same time. Many of the contemporary ideas of attention are based on the premise that there are available to the human observer a myriad of cues that surround us at any given moment. Our neurological capacity is too limited to sense all of the millions of external stimuli, but even were these stimuli detected, the brain would be unable to process all of them; our information-processing capacity is too limited. Our sensory system, functions well if the amount of information being processed is within its capability. If not, it will fail because it is overloaded. The role of attention is to filter out unimportant information and selectively enhancing salient input for further processing” (Chennu; Craston; wyble, et al. 2009). Attention was introduced in 1958 by Donald Broadbent, a British psychologist, who wrote in an influential book, Perception and Communication. According to Gross (2009), Broadbent proposed that attention was the result of a limited-capacity information-processing system. Broadbent’s theory proposes that the world is made up of more sensations than can be handled by our perceptual and cognitive capabilities and in order to cope with the flood of available information, humans selectively attend to only some of the cues and tune out much of the rest out.” Information is passed along in serial order from one storage or processing system to another (a short-term storage system) and then on to a long-term storage.
According to Anderson (2010), information comes through the system a person chooses which message to process on the basis of some physical characteristic, such as ear or pitch, then filters out the other information. “Messages entering each ear arrive on different nerves. Nerves also vary in which frequencies they carry from each ear.” Anderson concludes, that the brain, somehow selects certain nerves to pay attention to. Messages can be selected on the basis of their semantic content and on the meaning of the message as a basis for selection (Anderson, 2010).
According to Anderson (2010), our eyes register a large part of the visual field, but the fovea registers only a small fraction of that field. Therefore, “in choosing where to focus our vision, we also choose to devote most of our visual processing resources to a particular part of the visual field, and we attenuate the resources allocated to processing other parts of the field. We attend to the part of the visual field on which we are focused on.

Perception comes from the Latin word perception. It has been defined as the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information and it includes how we respond to the information. We take in sensory information from our environment and use that information to interact with our environment and make it into something meaningful. According to Anderson (20120), Perception involves signals in the nervous system. Sensation refers to the initial detection of stimuli and perception refers to an interpretation of the things we sense. Sensory events are processed within the context of our knowledge of the world. It is our past experiences, or objects that give meaning to our sensory experiences. Perception is not only influenced by sensory signals, but also, previous hypothesis, past knowledge and prejudices.

Relationship between Perception and Attention

Attention and perception are related in the fact that both are part of the processing systems that humans use to process information and to learn about the environment. According to the website,, both stem from the ability to consciously control and direct the mental process in connection to external stimuli, which may be physical, visual or from stored memory in connection to events. The relationship between perception and attention is the fact that “perception is the ability to make sense of the environment and surroundings, while attention is the ability to concentrate on any of the perceived stimuli.” Another connection between perception and attention is the ability of human beings to choose what internal or external stimuli to allocate their attention toward. When the individual give their attention to select stimuli, the individual is able to focus his or her attention on a particular stimuli while storing away the superfluous ones in either the long- or short-term memory for future reference ( According to an article titled, “Perception,” sensation is a process where our senses of vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch detect physical energy from the environment and encode it as neural signals. “Aided by knowledge and expectations, our brain perceives meaning in these signal. We selectively attend to, and process, a limited number of the data bombarding our senses and block out the others.” This focused attention can result in inattentional or change blindness, and even choice blindness ( Sensation and perception are part of one continuous process. Bottom-up processing is sensory analysis that begins at the entry level, with information flowing from the sensory receptors to the brain. Top-down processing is analysis that begins with the brain and flows down, filtering information through our experience and expectations to produce perceptions (


Anderson, J. (2010) Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications, 7th ed. NY: Worth Publishers

Chennu, S., Craston, P., Wyble, B., & Bowman, H. (2009). Attention increases the temporal precision of conscious perception: Verifying the neural-ST2 model. PLoS Computational Biology, 5(11), e1000576. doi:

Gross, R. (2009). Psychiatry: An evidence-based text. Pg.5. Retrieved May 30, 2015 from

Perception: Retrieved from on May 31, 2010.

Sensation and Perception. Retrieved on May 31, 2010 from https:/

What is the Connection between Perception and Attention? Retrieved May 31, 2010 from tention.htm

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