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Posts Tagged ‘Attentional Control’

You Should Be Paying Attention(al) to this Bias 

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Putting all of your attentional resources towards studying!

You rush into a library late on a rainy night, toting all your calculus notes with you. In just a few days, you have the biggest exam of the semester, and you know you have to do well to keep up your grades. As you walk in, you are greeted by an extensive number of stimuli, the warmth of the library, the smell of coffee floating through the air, the sound of pages rustling. You head to your favorite spot in the cubicle section of the library, pull your books out of your backpack, and get ready to start studying for your exam. Before you do though, you take a quick look at the people around you. You notice a person in a bright red rain jacket about 20 feet away from you, sitting on a chair reading a book. You also notice a group of students huddled around a table, and a man in a suit typing away on his laptop. But that’s enough of observing people, you are here to work on calculus! You really immerse yourself in the math, reading your textbook, reviewing notes, and solving problems in your notebook. You check the clock on the wall every once in a while and after a solid hour and a half of intense studying, you decide to take a break. You feel proud of what you’ve accomplished and decide to go to the next door cafe to get yourself a treat. As you stand up you scan the environment around you – to your surprise, you don’t see the group of students, the businessman, or the woman in the bright red raincoat. Instead there are new people around you that you don’t recognize – How did this happen? You weren’t asleep and you didn’t leave your spot in the library, yet you didn’t notice people leave or enter the space. This is an example of attentional bias, which causes people to pay attention to certain things while ignoring other stimuli. In this example, your attention was directed to the task at hand – so much so that attention was not paid to your surroundings.

Now, imagine you are in a classroom where a professor is going through a lecture with slides. You start to zone out, thinking about something completely unrelated to the class, while staring at the floor. You snap back to reality, look at the slides, and don’t recognize what your professor is talking about. Despite being in the closed classroom without distractions, you can’t remember what your professor was talking about, or what the past couple slides covered. This once again is attentional bias allowing you to ignore certain stimuli in your environment.

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Face it, You are Not THAT Important: The Spotlight Effect

November 26th, 2019 3 comments

www.pinterest.com Have you ever eaten alone in your college dining hall?

Now picture this: You walk into the dining hall alone, and you realize that most of the seats are already occupied by those sports teams, girls’ squads, and study groups… Everyone seems to be around with a bunch of people, except for you. You walk into this situation as if you break the “harmony”, and you feel like that everyone is staring at you or even secretly laughing at you — “Oh, she/he eats alone? Pathetic!” “Poor thing.” … But in reality, no one is actually watching you. They may not even notice that someone just came in. This also occurs in other scenarios: when you answered a question wrong in your class, when you had a bad hair, or when you got a zit on your nose tip, etc. If you find these situations familiar, please don’t worry! You are not pathetic, and you do not look ugly (or at least not that ugly, for sure) — You’ve just run into the Spotlight Effect! Read more…

Don’t Worry, Your New Friend Isn’t Actually Following You

November 25th, 2019 1 comment

Imagine you are a college student at a party on a Saturday night. A friend introduces you to a guy that you have never met before; in fact, you have never even seen him before. The next day, you see the guy you just met in the dining hall, and then again later that afternoon in the library. Over the next few weeks, you start to feel like you see this guy everywhere you go on campus. This is called the frequency illusion.

When you meet a new person on campus and then you start seeing them all the time.

The frequency illusion is a cognitive bias that describes our tendency to see something we have recently been introduced to much more often than we remember in the past. The two major cognitive aspects of the frequency illusion are confirmation bias and selective attention (Zwicky, 2006). Confirmation bias occurs when people actively seek ways to confirm their original beliefs, while selective attention refers to our ability to focus on a particular stimulus while in the presence of multiple stimuli. Since attention is a limited resource, we are not able to attend to all of the stimuli that may be present in our environment. We need to recognize which is the most relevant, and dedicate our attentional resources to that stimulus. Read more…

What was I saying? Oh, right, Absent-mindedness…

April 26th, 2018 No comments

It’s a Saturday night. You come home early to catch your favorite TV show. You’re in such a hurry that you throw your keys somewhere carelessly. When it’s time to go out, you can’t remember where you put your keys. It’s not at the regular spot where you usually place your keys. It takes a long time for you to find them. Does this seem familiar? When things like this happen, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with your mind. In fact, it is a common phenomenon called absent-mindedness.

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Absent-mindedness is a cognitive bias that happens when people “zone out” and make mistakes in daily life (Broadbent, Cooper, FitzGerald, & Parkes, 1982). The mistakes can be anything related to a lack of attention, e.g., walking in a room and forgetting why you came in, dropping something unintentionally, or throwing your phone in a trash can and keeping the coffee cup (which happened to me once). Absent-mindedness is where attention and memory come together, even though they seem to be two separate things.

How is absent-mindedness related to attention? Before answering this question, we need to know that our attention has a limited capacity (Sanbonmatsu, Strayer, Biondi, Behrends, & Moore, 2015). One theory suggests that when our limited attentional resource is occupied, the rate of absent-mindedness may increase (Fisher & Hood, 1987). This means that if you are talking to a friend while walking down the street and paying little attention to your surroundings, you might end up bumping into someone if that person is being absent-minded as well!
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Absentmindedness: Why am I so bor…. oh wait I love this song!

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Do you ever find yourself bored for no reason? Wishing you were somewhere else doing something else? Or how about doing more than one thing at once? For example, you are driving…searching for your favorite song knowing full well that scrolling through your playlist while driving is dangerous. (click here to learn more about the perils of distracted driving).

Taken from imgflip.com

This humorous clip points to how multitasking while driving results in errors. In this situation, you are attending to two different tasks at once. We find ourselves in these situations more frequently than we like to admit. This has a lot to do with how and where we direct our attention. Interests and desires impact attentional control. The more we are interested in a task, the more attention we give to it. Attentional control is affected by how much attention we have to give each task.  We, only have a finite amount of attentional resources, and each task requires different levels of attention. This can lead to the cognitive bias, absentmindedness, which is the failure to attend to a task resulting in mistakes and forgetful behavior particularly when two tasks are being attempted simultaneously. A point of distinction is that multitasking which leads to absentmindedness is not a positive attribute and one we should avoid. Read more…

Isn’t The Weber-Fechner Law The Same As Any Other Equation? Never mind, I Just Noticed The Difference

April 24th, 2018 No comments

https://tenor.com/view/loud-too-loud-cant-hear-sorry-music-gif-5494161

Imagine that you and your best friend are sitting in the back of the classroom during a lecture on a Friday afternoon. All you can think about is the concert  you’re going to tonight that you’ve been excited about for months, so you give up on trying to listen to your professor explain nuclear chemistry. You quietly whisper back and forth with your friend, talking about what you plan on wearing and what time you need to leave. Finally, the lecture ends and before you know it you’re at the concert. The music is blasting and you’re having a great time, but after singing along to several songs you decide you need to go buy something to drink. You start to tell your friend that you’ll be right back, but she doesn’t hear you. You say her name louder a few times, but she still doesn’t notice. Finally, you lean in close and yell in her ear. She nods and says something back but you can’t hear it over the music. You could hear each other just fine a few hours ago in class, but now it’s nearly impossible. What you’re experiencing is a difference in background intensity, and Ernest Weber and Gustav Fechner have a law that will tell you all about it. Read more…

Under Budget and Over Time: The Planning Fallacy is Why You’re Always Behind Schedule

April 17th, 2017 8 comments

You are a busy college student who has a lot to do after a long day of classes. So you decide to try to organize your life and make a detailed schedule for your evening. You set aside an hour to get that workout in, and then another generous hour for dinner with your friends. Then to the library, you give yourself 45 minutes to read a history article and an hour to finish your lab report, followed

Evening Schedule

by an hour and a half for that chapter of chemistry notes. If all goes as planned, you’ll be back in your room snuggled up with Netflix by 11pm. The problem is, halfway through that chemistry chapter, you glance at your phone and it reads 11:43pm. What happened? You planned out everything you had to do and thought you had given yourself enough time to do it. Unfortunately, you have fallen victim to the planning fallacy. Read more…

Why Have I Seen so Many Dogs Today… and Other Effects of the Attentional Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever experienced that feeling where you’re in a bad mood and everything seems to be going wrong that day? Maybe all of your friends seem mad at you, or maybe you do something embarrassing like trip, and you feel like everybody is making fun of you.  These are basic examples of the phenomenon that cognitive psychologists call the attentional bias.  This describes the tendency for you to focus on certain pictures, objects, facial expressions, or other stimuli in your environment based on what is dominating your thoughts.  This means that someone who is very interested in dogs and reads a lot of information about them, or looks at pictures of them online all the time, will tend to focus more on dogs in their environment.

Cute dogs

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One Item, Two Prices: How the Endowment Effect Can Explain Different Valuations of the Same Object

April 17th, 2017 No comments

If you are not aware of the United Airlines disaster/debacle/controversy/blunder (take

Figure 1: United Airlines aircraft

your pick), I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself. However, to save you some time, I will provide you with a short recap of what happened. On April 11, 2017 United Airlines had over booked a flight from Chicago to Louisville and needed to make room for four members of the flight crew. You can probably guess where this is going –  an overbooked flight with four additional seats needed means that four passengers have to change to a later flight (math!). No one wanted to volunteer to give up their seat, so United Airlines bumped four passengers who were already seated from this flight. For whatever reason, one man really did not want to give up his seat that he had already paid for. Thus, United Airlines underwent an “involuntary de-boarding situation” and thought that it would be a good idea to physically remove this man while he was kicking and screaming. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for United Airlines, this incident was caught by many people on video and then posted to social media. If you’re curious about what United Airlines missed and how they could have potentially avoided the bad PR they incurred after the event, you should continue reading.
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Does Self-Control Depletion Have A Negative Impact in Sports?

November 24th, 2015 3 comments

Have you ever been so angry and frustrated at something that you begin having irrational thoughts or actions? Say you stub your toe and begin screaming profanities at the bureau that you stubbed it on. In your normal state of mind, you would know that it’s ridiculous to be screaming at inanimate objects when the cause of your frustration is entirely on you. So why do these irrational thoughts or actions happen in the first place, and why does our self-control seem to disappear in these instances? Self-control depletion, or losing the ability to control oneself has been recently looked at in greater detail, and real world implications of self control depletion are being discovered. An area that self-control depletion can have a large effect is in sports competition. Anyone who has played competitive sports knows the feeling of being so frustrated with an aspect of the game that they no longer act as themselves, and rather act on frustration and anger. Whether it comes from a ref blowing an obvious call or an opposing player performing a blatant foul on you or one of your teammates, a normally rational and unaggressive player can lose their self-control quickly. A study in 2014 by Englert and Bertrams looked at self–control depletion, focusing their study on the effects that self-control depletion has in sports. Being able to have self-control is a very important part of most competitive sports. From flipping over a chess table because you are frustrated by your lack of strategy, to hitting an opposing football player with the truck-stick because they badmouthed your teammate on the previous play, self-control comes into play more often than not in competitive play. Understanding the effects of self-control depletion in sports may just give you the competitive edge.

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Self-control can be defined as the process of voluntarily controlling an impulse or habitual action, such as choosing to eat an apple instead of a piece of cake when you are on a diet. Much like how attention is a limited resource, self-control is also limited in its capacity. In sports, attention is spread to many different things, and since it is a limited resource, it is difficult to pay attention to self-control while attending to so many other distractions. Attention has often been described as a “spotlight”, and you must move the spotlight around to focus your attention on different things. In sports, that spotlight is constantly moving around, trying to focus on the most important aspect of the game. Since you are trying to focus on so many different things, you are spending much less time focusing on your self-control, and allowing it to get out of hand when presented with situations requiring utmost self-control.

After a first act of self-control, the resource is depleted for a certain amount of time, and it is not replenished instantly (Baumeister et al., 1998). This time period where the resource has been depleted is called “ego depletion”, and further acts of self-control are temporarily impaired during this period. This study also aimed to look at how certain aspects of sporting competitions can actually deplete self-control strength. In order to do this, the experimenters relied on the effect of vicarious depletion. Vicarious depletion can be described as mentally reliving the actions of a person who had to exert self-control and having your own self-control depleted as well.

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