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Re: historical perspective on theories of attention

I wonder if the distinction between urgency and importance is useful if taking a sort of evolutionery perspective? by this, I mean that,if we are looking for some simple physical features that tend to encourage attention, might these be causal features, and if so, are they reducible to signal features?
I'm thinking of items like "auditory looming" (which I think of as part of the general class of "comingness"), which may signify call to action.
I wonder if perception has been shaped by "urgency". Important items - like understanding the shape of the place in which one is, mapping escape routes, food etc, can be perceived 'in between' urgent items. In this way, planning (for escape or feeding) can reduce the number of urgent items.
So much of auditory spatial perception in real environments can be 'background', requiring little or no attention. An example might be the reverberant characteristics of a room. Very few people bother to pay explicit attentino to this, yet most learn to 'use' a room, so that the perception of direction of sources in a given room improves over time (Barbara Shinn Cunningham, and others)
So timeliness of response might be facilitated by inattentive, unconscious or preconscious processes that just run in the background, building up a background cognitive context that matches the ongoing causal context well enough for survival. In the absence of this, a sudden noise in our ear makes us jump whereas the same noise, albeit unanticipated, would provoke a different response if it occurred 20 metres away. The question is, what key signal features differ in those two cases? Can these be cartoonified, and is that what perception does (especially in urgent cases)?

Dr. Peter Lennox
Signal Processing Applications Research Group
University of Derby
Int. tel: 1775

>>> Diana Deutsch <ddeutsch@xxxxxxxx> 03/05/2006 20:30 >>>
Dear Dan, John et al.,

To place this discussion in historical perspective, the 'late 
selection' model of attention was first proposed by Deutsch, J.A. and 
Deutsch, D.,'Attention: Some theoretical considerations', 
Psychological Review, 1963, 70, 80-90. There have, of course, been a 
large number of elaborations of this basic model. The article is 


Diana Deutsch

>This note was intended to be sent to the entire list (my change of 
>e-mail address prevented it from appearing); Dan has replied to me 
>What you've suggested so succinctly seems a lot like the concepts on 
>perception that I discuss on my Web site. Using a basic system 
>analysis approach I've tried to find fundamental principles from 
>which to establish generalized requirements for sensory systems 
>based on what it takes for animals to survive in their environments.
>Here is some of my thinking: Survival requires an animal's sensory 
>organs to produce a timely response to environmental information. 
>These responses must identify the relative importance of sources in 
>a way that describes a "situation" whereby  "awareness" 
>characterizes the auditory scene.  In any situation, sensors should 
>be able to select for attention instantaneously the single most 
>important source within the scene. To do this the model I propose 
>has a hierarchy of perceptual levels each of which has its own 
>ability for awareness and attention but is subservient to judgments 
>by higher authority. Each level's responses are based upon specific 
>time frames within which information from each level can be made 
>available. (Simple meanings occupy less time to absorb than 
>complicated meanings,) In addition, each level is capable of 
>selecting a priority source within its domain for attention. For 
>example, the lowest levels which have the simplest information could 
>respond reflexively to a source within milliseconds. But its 
>response could be moderated by a top-down decision from higher 
>levels. It is thus possible, as you suggest, that what seems like 
>simultaneous multiple-source attention at the conscious level is 
>actually the rapid switching of priorities among source objects 
>based on subliminal decisions at the lower levels. As an example, 
>consider the complexity of the attention decisions a quarterback 
>must process within the few seconds he has during a football play.
>A crucial question: how to achieve and synchronize timely responses 
>at all levels. It appears to me that this problem has not been 
>seriously addressed in the current paradigm.
>John Bates
>  <http://home.computer.net/~jkbates>
>At 12:18 PM 4/28/06, you wrote:
>I think another factor to consider in the concurrent segregation of 
>sounds is that much of the segregation may be accomplished 
>pre-attentively.  Low-level (in the brain, and even cochlea) feature 
>detectors may segregate aspects of sounds, if not the sounds 
>themselves, well before they percolate up to what we call 
>"consciousness."  This would depend on the type of segregating cue 
>under consideration, whether it is pitch, spatial location, onset 
>time, etc.

Professor Diana Deutsch
Department of Psychology                          
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr. #0109            
La Jolla, CA 92093-0109, USA

858-453-1558 (tel)
858-453-4763 (fax)


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