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The Effect of Selective Attention on the Academic Development of the Nigerian Student

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By Palmer101
Words 1752
Pages 8




23RD AUGUST, 2013


The poor performance of Nigerian students in both internal and external examinations have been decried in many quarters across the country and many have blamed the society, the schools and parents for their role in the deteriorating level of academic performances. Not many have questioned the role of the students themselves in the dilemma that has befallen them. The search for a permanent cure to this menace has been on for decades. However with every new dawn the case seems to go worse.

There are many who blame the poor economy as a result of high level corruption being perpetrated in government and political circles. Others believe that the school system is failing and is not doing enough to ensure that students get the maximum attention necessary for excellence. And there are others who believe that neglect on the part of parents is responsible for poor performances in schools.
However true these factors are, no independent factor can be singled out to be more responsible for the problem of poor performance by students in schools. More recently, many researchers have identified lack of seriousness, laziness which leads to procrastination and corruption and examination malpractices in schools as some of the major factors limiting the performances of students especially those in institutes of higher learning.
Owing to the fact that even children who are labelled “bright” have been found to have done poorly in certain academic environment and situations, one is forced to ask why especially in situations where there are others who are excelling from the same measure of learning and exposure. The ban here is individual attention.
Eigbe (2005) propounded that selective attention will give rise to selective retention which in turn shapes perception. Research has shown that many children who dislike certain teachers, in many cases, do not perform well in the subjects taught by such teachers. Their dislike translates to lack of attention and eventually they dislike the subject. The much you know is the much you give.

Attention is the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things. Attention has also been referred to as the allocation of processing resources. Many psychologists and neuroscientists have studied attention to determine the source of the signals that generate attention, the effects of these signals on the tuning properties of sensory neurons, and the relationship between attention and other cognitive processes like working memory and vigilance.
According to William James (1890), attention is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization and concentration of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction.
James differentiated between sensorial attention and intellectual attention. Sensorial attention is when attention is directed to objects of sense, stimuli that are physically present. Intellectual attention is attention directed to ideal or represented objects; stimuli that are not physically present. James also distinguished between immediate or derived attention: attention to the present versus to something not physically present. According to James, attention has five major effects. Attention works to make us perceive, conceive, distinguish, remember, and shorten reactions time.
The relationships between attention and consciousness are complex enough that they have warranted perennial philosophical exploration. These investigations have been on for a long time and are continues. A renowned psychologist John WatsonJuan Luis Vives was the first to recognize the importance of empirical investigation into the problem of attention and retention. In his work on memory, Vives found that the more closely one attends to stimuli, the better they will be retained. A student who pays attention is certainly going to harness more facts that one that is constantly distracted.
In order to respond appropriately to a question, Franciscus Donders discovered that time was required to identify a stimulus and to select a motor response. This was the time difference between stimulus discrimination (when you have to select among severally communication reaching you) and response initiation (replying to the one that gets your attention).
It was also discovered that it is possible to focus on one stimulus and still perceive or ignore others. An example of this is the fact that some people in a seminar can give their ears to the lectures while their eyes are busy on other things.
A more modern research on attention is the analysis of the "cocktail party problem" by Colin Cherry (1953). At a cocktail party how do people select the conversation that they are listening to and ignore the rest? This problem is at times called "focused attention", as opposed to "divided attention". The Broadbent's Filter Model of Attention on the other hand, states that information is held in a pre-attentive temporary store, and only sensory events that have some physical feature in common are selected to pass into the limited capacity processing system.

Selective attention allows individuals to select or focus on one process while tuning out others. Donald Broadbent's "filter theory of attention" explains this phenomenon by stating that attention is a "bottleneck through which information passes", which then allows individuals to focus on the important. Related to these phenomena's is the "cocktail party effect". This refers to one's ability to hear something significant or important to them in a conversation that they are not directly involved in. Most of society would not realize why or how they heard their hometown come up in a conversation across the room. Most of society does not realize why we actually do have selective hearing. But psychology opens up our brains and makes sense of things that we encounter daily.
Selective attention theories have suggested that individuals have a tendency to orient themselves toward, or process information from only one part of the environment with the exclusion of other parts. There is an abundant amount of evidence which supports that selective attention is governed by our arousal level. The most persistent question in the literature has been whether the shifts in attention that accompany changes in the arousal level are automatic, or deliberate. One segment of the research community has dealt with this issue via the capacity models. These theories propose that we all have a limited amount of mental capacity to allocate to various tasks, at any given time. The number of tasks referred to here can also be named chunks. Chunks are units which have already been stored in long term memory, items which we are familiar with, or are structurally similar to items we are familiar with. It is difficult to normalize the number of items or chunks any individual can store in short term memory, or retrieve from long term memory. There are many individual differences due to prior experience and perception of the material being handled.
The initial evidence for this phenomenon was derived from the work of a Dutch psychologist named De Groot during the 1940's. His experiments required chess players of different abilities to reproduce chessboards mid-game. Each participant was given 5 seconds to view the board, after which all the pieces were taken off the board. The participant was then asked to reconstruct the game. The initial findings showed that the more proficient players could reproduce 90% of the pieces on their first attempt, while the weaker players only reproduced 40% of the pieces. To assess whether the findings were due to each player's ability or familiarity with the board, the players were then exposed to a board with various pieces placed randomly upon it. In this experiment the position of each piece did not hold a personal meaning to the player, since the participants had not been stopped playing a game of chess. This experiment showed no significant differences between the strong players and weaker players.
The models proposed by Broadbent (1957), Treisman (1960), Deutsch and Deutsch (1963), and Norman (1968), were the more prominent theories in the field, to elaborate on De Groot's memory model. All of these models attempted to explain the process by which we attend to certain information, but not all information available to us. One may identify one's environment by means of sound, smell, taste, visual and tactile stimuli as the information referred to above. The issue all of these theories had to resolve was the location of selection to the stimuli. More specifically, the models had to explain the process by which we are able to make sense of our environment, given that we are constantly bombarded with information.

Philosopher Nicolas Malebranche in his work "The Search After Truth" held that we have access to ideas, or mental representations of the external world, but not direct access to the world itself." Thus in order to keep these ideas organized, attention is necessary. Otherwise we will confuse these ideas. Malebranche wrote that "because it often happens that the understanding has only confused and imperfect perceptions of things, it is truly a cause of our errors.... It is therefore necessary to look for means to keep our perceptions from being confused and imperfect. And, because, as everyone knows, there is nothing that makes them clearer and more distinct than attentiveness, we must try to find the means to become more attentive than we are". According to Malebranche, attention is crucial to understanding and keeping thoughts organized.
Philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz introduced the concept of apperception to this philosophical approach to attention. Apperception refers to "the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole." Apperception is required for a perceived event to become a conscious event. Leibniz emphasized a reflexive involuntary view of attention known as exogenous orienting. However there is also endogenous orienting which is voluntary and directed attention.
The panacea therefore to the effect of selective attention is endogenous orientation which prescribed for a conscientious effort at paying attention to that which is necessary and important whether it’s something we like or not. A deliberate and purposeful effort is required that the student set aside every distraction in order to be attentive and successful.

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