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The 15 types of attention and what are their characteristics

The 15 types of attention and what are their characteristics

May 8, 2023

Attention is a cognitive process that allows to focus selectively in a stimulus (or several) of the environment without taking into account the rest.

As stated by John Ratey (2001), psychologist and professor at Harvard University, "attention is more than simply noticing incoming stimuli. It involves a series of processes, including the filtering of perceptions, the balancing of multiple perceptions and linking the emotional meaning to these perceptions.

In this article we will examine what are the different types of care and how they affect our way of behaving.

  • You may be interested: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), also in adults"

The different types of attention

In the article "Control of attention in sport: attentional approaches" we delve into the reasons why the regulation of attention is important both in sports and in different areas of our lives. For example, have a good capacity for concentration helps us to be more effective when it comes to studying or working , it increases our ability to use memory, our effectiveness in decision making, our precision and our agility.

According to its amplitude and direction

In the world of sports it is common to hear about attention approaches, which can also be applied to the different tasks of life. Attentional approaches are four, which take into account the direction (external or internal) and the amplitude of the direction (narrow or wide).

Regarding the direction of attention, external attention refers to when an individual focuses on issues outside of him, to what happens around him. Instead, Internal attention refers to when a person pays attention to their internal events , to what happens inside him.

Regarding the breadth of attention, wide attention is related to a greater number of stimuli , while reduced attention will allow greater concentration. The direction and breadth of attention are combined creating different types of attention, which are the following.

1. External-reduced attention

The focus is on a small number of stimuli external to the person, and is related to concentration. For example, when an individual intends to throw a dart and focuses all his attention on the center of the target.

2. External-wide attention

This type of attention focuses on a large number of stimuli external to the person . For example, when a player starts a counterattack, he raises his head and observes the position of his teammates to make an effective pass.

It is important to know the difference between both types of external attention in order to maximize sports performance, since if an athlete is not aware of this difference and starts a counterattack focusing attention on the ball and dribbling (external-reduced attention), no he will know to whom to pass the ball to him and, therefore, he will lose a valuable opportunity to look for the opposite goal.

3. Internal-reduced attention

It is characterized because the attention is focused in a small number of stimuli or responses that occur in the body of a person. For example, when a player is learning to perform a Vaseline and must focus on the movements of their own foot and not if Vaseline enters the goal.

4. Internal-wide attention

This type of attention refers to a person focusing on a large number of stimuli or responses that occur within their body. For example, when someone has to fill an emotional diary and analyze what happened during that day and what were the feelings that lived.

According to the attitude of the individual

Taking into account the attitude of the individual, attention can be classified in two ways.

5. Voluntary attention

It occurs when the individual makes an active and conscious effort to direct attention, that is, is the ability to Focus on a stimulus voluntarily .

6. Involuntary care

In this type of attention the person does not make a conscious and active effort, but rather it is the internal as well as the external stimulus that directs the attention. For example, the noise of a firecracker or toothache.

According to the motor and physiological manifestations

If we take into account the motor and physiological manifestations, attention can be divided into:

7. Open care

The focus of attention and the recipients of interest have their orientation in the source of attention . For example, when someone speaks to us and we are facing each other, attending to their verbal and non-verbal language.

8. Covert attention

In this kind of attention the attentional focus and the sensory receptors dissociate . For example, when it seems that we are paying attention to television and we are actually listening to our partner talking on the phone.

According to the sensory modality

Taking into account the sensory modality. The attention can be of two types.

9. Visual attention

It refers to the spatial arrangement. This phenomenon allows to detect the stimuli in a complex visual context.

10. Hearing care

Although we can not move the ears like the eyes to capture different auditory stimuli, yes we can choose what we hear , that is, we can focus attention on one auditory stimulus or another.

Other types of care

In addition to the above classifications, there are other types of care as well. Next we explain them to you.

11. Selective attention

It also receives the name of focused attention. It is the ability to select and focus the determined attention in a specific stimulus or task . There are different theories that deal with this concept. In the article "Selective attention: definition and theories" you can know more about this subject.

12. Divided attention

It is the ability to simultaneously attend and process two or more demands or stimuli. It is also known as multitasking. For example, cooking and listening to music at the same time.

13. Alternate attention

It is the ability to change the focus of attention from one stimulus to another. For example, read a recipe and prepare food.

14. Sustained attention

It refers to when we have to use attention for a long period of time. For example, when playing a video game.

15. Concentration

Concentration is reduced external attention, is the ability of a person to centralize their attention in a sustained and constant manner. Your applications are many.

  • You can know them in the article "The importance of concentration and focus of attention in sport"

Bibliographic references:

  • Fuentes, L. and García-Sevilla, J. (2008). Manual of psychology of attention: a neuroscientific perspective. Madrid: Synthesis.
  • Gorfein, D. S., and McLeod, C. M. (2007). Inhibition in cognition. American Psychological Association.
  • Posner, M. (2011). Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention.Ed .: 2nd ed. Guildford Publications.
  • Styles, E. A. (2010). Psychology of attention. Madrid: Ramón Areces Study Center.

Divided attention, selective attention, inattentional blindness, & change blindness | Khan Academy (May 2023).

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