The ability to focus on relevant environmental stimulus is called attention. High attention would mean focusing only on the relevant part and removing attention from the irrelevant part. In scientific words, attention is defined as directing cognitive resources towards an internal or external stimulus of any kind. The process of paying attention is like breathing and many times, we don’t even know that we are paying attention to something and it is an altogether separate process.
The only organ fully utilized in the process of attention is the brain. Seeking attention has become the primary objective of almost every industry to run their businesses. For example, the objective of every advertise is to materialize a sale by getting the attention of a customer. Getting attention is the first step towards any transaction.
The 6 different types of attention
The Types of Attention depends on the circumstances and needs you may be facing.
1) Sustained Attention
Ability to focus on one specific task and avoiding the other distractions for a long period of time is called sustained attention. It is the same that you think of when you hear the words focus concentration, etc. It requires the ability to concentrate and focus on one single task while removing all other distractions.
The example of sustained attention would be reading a book, memorizing a formula, listening to a lecture or playing a game. Amongst all Types of Attention, this attention is the most desired. This kind of attention requires a large amount of focus and determination to avoid from being distracted. This is the highest level of attention anybody can give and the intensity required for this is extremely high.
This attention lapses after a small period of time post which we again have to readjust and refocus to give sustained attention. The kind of attention during an important announcement when everybody is quiet is also an example of sustained attention.
2) Selective Attention
In the case of selective attention, various kinds of stimuli are 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 the 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 a voice on the phone in a party with loud music is selective attention. In this case, it is very easy to focus selectively but in other cases, it may not be so easy. It is something that everybody does in day to day activities. It does not depend on the nature of the stimulus but on the attention of the observer. For example, a woman may not wake up to the sound of an everyday train going past her home, but would wake up immediately to the sound of her baby.
Selective attention may be employed to tune in to either external or internal stimuli. For example, in spite of having a lot of background noise a person tries to focus on his own thoughts is internal selective attention, while focusing on the words said by the person opposite to you in spite of having a lot of thoughts in mind is called external selective attention.
3) Divided Attention
This is a very critical form of attention wherein the responder focuses on more than one response and reacts to them simultaneously.
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 user 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 the tasks. The brain has the 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.
Divided attention at times requires muscle memory. For example, when you are learning a bicycle to ride for the first time you require a lot of sustained attention to learning and if you try to give divided attention, you may not perform the task at hand.
Once you know how to ride the bicycle, you can listen to songs or even give your attention somewhere else because of the muscle memory. Thus, in this case, giving divided attention is very easy owing to the muscle memory or habit. Other examples of divided attention would be checking email while in a meeting and texting simultaneously or making dinner while talking on the phone.
4) 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 case of divided attention the same amount of attention is split into the number of tasks at hand who is in 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 person is in a party talking to someone on phone and if he gives 20% of his attention to music in the background, 50% to the voice on the phone and 30% to see if he finds someone known in the party, 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.
5) Visual Attention
This attention is categorized on the basis of sensory organ that is used which is eyes. Having a visual attention means blurring out all other stimuli and focusing only on the inputs received by eyes. The perfect example of visual attention is seen in case of Olympics when the shooter focuses on his aim to shoot.
A Detective may utilize full visual attention to find out the clues to solve a case. People who have impaired hearing have to use visual attention completely to understand what the other person is trying to say. Visual attention is also used in case of advertising or reading. Eyes are at work while information is processed by the brain and all other senses are at rest.
6) Auditory Attention
Just like visual attention auditory is nothing but a tension employed by 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.