What Is the Connection Between Perception and Attention?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2014
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Perception and attention are two concepts that are related to the cognitive development of human beings. 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. As such, 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.

A connection between perception and attention stems from the ability of human beings to choose what internal or external stimuli to allocate their attention toward. This is a very important ability due to the barrage of information with which human beings have to contend with on a daily basis. By giving 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.

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For instance, if a young boy is walking through a park on a sunny day, he will notice many objects that serve as a form of stimuli. Some of those will only be noticed marginally, while others will stand out in varying degrees of focus, commanding the boy's attention. For instance, such external stimuli will include the warmth from the sun, a slight breeze, flowers in the park, and others. The connection between perception and attention can be seen in the stimuli on which the boy chooses to focus his attention.

For instance, he might marginally notice everything described above, but he might choose a golden retriever or an ice-cream truck as the focus of his attention. Some of the other objects might be stored in his short-term memory, but the ice-cream truck and golden retriever will stand out in sharp focus, because he chose to give those particular visual stimuli his attention. If the young boy is interviewed a year from that time, he might partially remember the other factors but the memory of the golden retriever and other objects he paid attention to will probably come easier to him. As such, perception and attention are intertwined by the effect that the person experiencing the stimuli allocates his or her attention to the objects that he or she perceives.

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candyquilt
Post 3

All this talk about perception and attention reminds me of detective Sherlock Holmes who can pay attention to many little details and process them quite efficiently in a rather short period of time. It's obviously something that most people can do. I guess it has to do with our individual brain capacity for processing.

fify
Post 2

@stoneMason-- I don't know. I thin an expert would best answer your question. But if cognitive processes are about the conscious control of how the brain processes things, the subconscious process that you described, wouldn't belong to this category.

I think that cognitive studies concentrate on the conscious processes purely. So it looks at how people are able to divert their attention to one or two things in their environment, while ignoring or choosing not to perceive the rest.

stoneMason
Post 1

Is the connection between perception and attention the same for everyone?

I saw a film about a man with schizophrenia. In one scene, the man was giving his attention to one thing as someone else was speaking to him. Later it was shown that the information that he hadn't given attention to was subconsciously absorbed and the character's double personality used it without his knowledge.

So there was a suggestion that the mind somehow stores everything it perceives. It may not be done consciously (by giving attention to it), but rather subconsciously.

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