Did you know: There is 6 DIFFERENT TYPES OF ATTENTION?

This cognitive ability is very important and is an essential function in our daily lives.

Attention is the ability to choose and concentrate on relevant stimuli, for instance listening to a teacher in class. Attention is the cognitive process that makes it possible to position ourselves towards relevant stimuli and consequently respond to them.

Luckily, attention can be trained and improved with the appropriate cognitive training.

This is your ability to focus on one specific task and avoiding the other distractions for a long period of time. It requires the ability to concentrate and focus on one single task while removing all other distractions.

An example of sustained attention would be reading a book, memorising a formula, listening to a lecture, or playing a game. Amongst all types of attention, this attention is the most desired.

Another example is to sit and listen to a teacher while there are other students talking or noise outside the classroom. Being able to filter all those distractions and be actively engaged with what the teacher is saying will also be sustained attention.

Selective Attention

Here there may be various kinds of stimuli present in the environment and the listener chooses to focus only on a specific one while ignoring the rest. The brain is naturally tuned to avoid unnecessary stimuli and focus only on the necessary ones. In some situations, giving selective attention would be very difficult but with practice, it would become very easy.

For example, trying to listen to the teacher in class while someone is mowing the lawn outside is selective attention. In this case, it is very easy to focus selectively but in other cases, it may not be so easy.

This is something a lot of children struggle with.

Divided Attention

The other, more commonly used term for divided attention is multitasking which is juggling between two or more tasks. It is common that due to divided attention the child may get exhausted fast since it uses mental focus on a large scale.

Although the definition of divided attention says that the user focuses on two different tasks at hand, it is practically impossible to give the same amount of focus to both tasks. The brain has a limited amount of attention that it can provide and if the person is having two or more tasks, the percentage of attention does not increase but the entire available attention is split for different tasks.

Other examples of divided attention would be checking email while in a meeting and texting simultaneously or making dinner while talking on the phone.

Alternating Attention

Alternating attention is very closely related to divided attention but is very different. As the name suggests, when you are alternate the tension between two things it is known as alternating attention.

The primary difference between alternating and divided attention in the case of divided attention the same amount of attention is split into the number of tasks at hand. In the case of alternating attention, the entire attention is shifted from one to another.

Let’s consider a hypothetical example to understand the difference more clearly.

Suppose you could measure the attention into a percentage, the amount of attention a person has 100% at hand.

Supposing a teacher is in class talking to someone on the phone and if she gives 20% of her attention to children whispering in class, 50% to the voice on the phone and 30% to see the other students are doing their classwork, it is an example of divided attention. But if he gives 100% attention to the voice on the phone and then pauses the talk and shifts the entire attention to an announcement it is called alternating attention. In alternating attention, one task is entirely ignored while the focus is only on the other task and it is the exact opposite of multitasking.

Visual Attention

This attention is categorised on the basis of the sensory organ that is used which is the eyes. Having visual attention means blurring out all other stimuli and focusing only on the inputs received by the eyes. The perfect example of visual attention is seen in the case of the Olympics when the shooter focuses on his aim to shoot.

Visual attention is also used in the case of reading. Eyes are at work while information is processed by the brain and all other senses are at rest.

Auditory Attention

Just like visual attention auditory is nothing but a tension employed by the use of ears. Paying attention to what you hear without interrupting is called auditory attention. While listening to an audiobook, or paying attention to an important announcement are a few examples of auditory attention.

Auditory and visual attention works with each other since when using one of them the other is at work too. Auditory attention is very important for visually impaired people who use listening as the primary means of attention. They also use touch or sensory attention in conjugation with auditory attention.

Karin Visser

Biolink Attention Training