Attention is the focus of consciousness on a particular object or idea at a particular time, to the exclusion of other objects or ideas.
Attention is defined as a process, which compels the individual to select some particular stimulus according to his interest and attitude out of the multiplicity of stimuli present in the environment. (Sharma RN - 1967)
Attention is the concentration of consciousness upon one object rather than upon another. (Dumville - 1938)
Types of Attention
• Voluntary (volitional)
• Involuntary (non - volitional)
* Voluntary Attention
Voluntary attention demands a conscious effort on our part. For example, solving an assigned problem in Mathematics, answering a question in an examination needs voluntary attention. It is further subdivided into two categories.
: implicit volitional attention
• Explicit volitional attention.
Implicit volitional attention: -A single act of will is responsible for arousing attention. For example, a teacher assigns practice work to a child and warns of punishment, if not completed. This can make him exercise his will power, attend to the assigned task and finish it properly.
Explicit volitional attention:- Attention is obtained by repeated acts of will. One has to struggle hard for keeping oneself attentive; it requires a strong will power, keen attention and strong motives for accomplishment of the task. For example, the stimulus attention paid during examination days for securing the good grades.
This type of attention is aroused without the play of will or without making a conscious effort on our part. For example, we give involuntary attention to loud sounds, bright lights and strong odors, etc.
• Involuntary or non-volitional attention aroused by the instincts is called enforced non-volitional attention. For example, giving attention out of curiosity.
Non - volitional attention aroused by sentiments is called spontaneous non - volitional attention. For example, we give somewhat automatic or spontaneous attention towards some objects, formed.
Determinants of Attention (or) Methods of Arousing Attention (or) Factors and Conditions Favorable for Capturing Attention
Certain factors produce and control the condition of attention in a person. These factors are classifiedas, external (objective) -those found in one's environment and internal (subjective) -those within the person himself. The methods of securing attention are, based upon these external and internal factors of attention.
External factors or conditions
Nature of the stimulus: All types of stimuli are not able to evoke the same degree of attention. An attractive stimulus should always be chosen for capturing maximum attention. A picture attracts attention more readily than words. Among the pictures, the pictures of human being (especially beautiful woman or handsome men) capture more attention than those of animals or objects. It has been found that in comparison with other sensations, color and sound attract more attention.
Intensity of the stimulus:- In comparison to a weak stimulus, an intense stimulus attracts more attention of an individual. Our attention becomes easily directed to a loud sound, a bright light or a strong smell
Size of the stimulus:- As a general rule bigger size objects in the environment are more likely to catch our attention than a small object. A small size on a very big background also attracts attention.
Contrast, change and novelty: -Change and variety strike attention more easily than routine. The use of maps and charts suddenly attracts the student's attention, when compared to the routine verbal talk. We do not notice the ticking on the watch but it arrests our attention, as soon as it stops.
Any change in the stimulation to which we have become adapted immediately captures our attention.
Novelty means something new or different. It attracts attention very easily and is closely related to change. A new building, a new teacher are all examples of common novelty. So it is always better to introduce a change or novelty for breaking monotony and securing attention.
Location of the stimulus:- The location of the stimulus also affects attention. In the case of visual stimuli, the most effective location is to be just in front of the eyes. For example, it has been found in experiments that advertisements given on the front page or on the upper half of any page attract more attention.
Repetition of the stimulus:- A repeated stimulus attracts our attention. We may ignore a stimulus at first instance but, when it is repeated several times, it captures our attention. A mis - spelt word is more likely to be noticed, if it occurs twice in the same paragraph than if it occurs only once. But this practice of repetition should be carefully used. Too much repetition of a stimulus may bring diminishing returns.
Movement of the stimulus: -A moving stimulus catches our attention more quickly than a stimulus that does not move. This is why the pictures on a television screen or those in a cinema hold our attention for hours at time.
Definite form of the object: -A sharply defined object attracts our attention more than a broad indefinite object. A figure attracts more attention than the background. A very clearly defined object attracts our attention more than a vaguely indefinite object.
Isolation of the stimulus: - Isolation is an important external determinant of attention. A student sitting alone in the corner of the class is seen first (attracts more attention than others).
Internal factors or conditions
A person's attention to a stimulus depends not only upon the characteristics of the stimulus or the favorable environmental conditions but also upon his interest, motives, basic needs and urges, etc.
Interest and attention:- Interest is a very helpful factor in securing attention. We attend to objects, in which we are interested than those in which we are not interested.
Motives: -The basic drives and urges of the individ ual are very important in securing attention. Thirst, hunger, sex, curiosity, fear are some of the important motives that exercise definite influence upon atten tion. When hungry we may attend to even distasteful food but while our belly is full we may not attend to even the tastiest one.
Mental set - up:- A person always attends to those objects, towards which his mind has set. For example, on the day of examination the slightest thing concerning the examination easily attracts the attention of the students.
Past experience: -Learning and previous experience facilitated attention. If we know by our past experience that a particular person is sincere to us, we pay atten tion to what ever he advices.
Emotion:- The emotional state, in which a person determines attention. For example, a person attends only to bad qualities of his enemy.
Habit: -Habit is also an important determinant of attention. A man develops the habit of attending to necessary and desirable things and on the other hand also develops habit of not attending to unnecessary and undesirable things.
Aim: -Every man has some immediate and ultimate aims. So a student whose aim is to pass the examination will at once attend to the textbooks or notes.
Meaning:- In comparison to meaningless stimuli, meaningful stimulus attracts more attention.
Disposition (natural tendency) and temperament:- Both are important internal factors which attract attention. For example, a man having a religious disposition and spiritual temperament will attend to religious matters.
Besides the conditions described above many other factors influence attention, such as heredity education, family, school, society, training etc. which has a wide influence on attention.
Duration and Degree of Attention
Span of Attention
The maximum amount of material that can be attended in a period of attention is called span of attention. This can be visual attention or auditory attention
. Span of visual attention:- Experiments have been carried out to measure the span of visual attention by making brief exposures to a number of objects. Thetime of exposure is very short, ranging from 1/100 to 1/5 of a second. The objects exposed to the eye are simple like dots, lines, letters or complex words or triangles, etc. The mind can attend to only four or five separate units if the items are not grouped into familiar units. But if the items are combined into meaningful wholes, for instance, letters are arranged into words, a large number of items can be perceived at once.
Span of auditory attention: -The number of auditory impressions perceived at a single instance is slightly greater. An adult can perceive eight sounds given rapidly in succession. But when sounds are given in a rhythm, a much larger number of sounds can be perceived.
Duration of Attention
It refers to, how long one can attend to an object without a break. If we attend to a single,simple object for instance, a dot, it will remain in the focus of our consciousness for only a second at the most, then something in the margin will crowd it out or memory of a past event will intrude.
The duration of attention depends upon the nature of the material, the interest of the observer, and other conditions.
Sustained Attention (Act of Fixation of Mind)
to sustain attention, is to concentrate one's activity continuously upon some object or a happening or a problem. The individual attention always remains on track and the activity proceeds systematically without any serious distraction. All internal as well as external factors of getting attention can be helpful in this track .
while paying attention towards an object or an event. it is not possible to hold attention continuously with the same intensity for a longer duration. It is constantly shifting from one object to another, from one aspect of the situation to another. We can perform only one voluntary act at a time and not two or more acts at a time. However, we can quickly shift attention from one voluntary act to another.
Division of Attention
Division of attention means to attend to two or more tasks simultaneously. Psychologists say we cannot attend to two things at a given time and there is no possibility of division of attention.
The reason for paying attention to more than one task at a given time can be:
• In performing two tasks simultaneously one of quic the two activities requires no attention.
• Attention rapidly shifts from one task to the other.
ALTERATIONS IN ATTENTION (DISTRACTION)
Distraction means any stimulus whose presence interferes with the process of attention or draws away attention from the object which we wish to attend. (HR Bhatia - 1968)
These alterations in attention reduce the efficiency of work.
Sources of Distraction
The sources of distraction vary very much. They affect the individual according to his own mental set- up and personality characteristics. The conditions which cause distraction to an individual may prove helpful in sustaining attention to others.
• External factors / environmental factors
• Internal factors
Noise, music, improper lighting, uncomfortable seats, unfavorable temperature, inadequate ventilation, defective methods of teaching, defective voice of the teacher, etc.
Emotional disturbances, ill health, boredom, lack of motivation, fatigue, etc.
The nurse should take great care to get away all possible causes of distractions in working area so as to sustain attention.
Types of Distraction
The distraction is continuous in nature. For example, the sound of radio played continuously, the noise at the market place, etc. Experiments have shown that adjustment to continuous distraction takes place quickly.
It is irregular. For example, the hearing of someone's voice every now and then. It interferes with work because of the impossibility of adjustment
. Some major means of removing distractions are:
• being active in work
• Disregard for distraction
•making the distraction a part of the work