What is attention?

Attention is the behavioral and cognitive process of selectively concentrating on a discrete aspect of information, whether subjective or objective, while ignoring other perceivable information. Attention has also been referred to as the allocation of limited processing resources.

Attention remains a major area of investigation within education, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and neuropsychology. Areas of active investigation involve determining the source of the sensory cues and signals that generate attention, the effects of these sensory cues and signals on the tuning properties of sensory neurons, and the relationship between attention and other behavioral and cognitive processes like working memory and vigilance. A relatively new body of research, which expands upon earlier research within neuropsychology, is investigating the diagnostic symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries and their effects on attention. Attention also has variational differences among differing cultures.

The relationships between attention and consciousness are complex enough that they have warranted perennial philosophical exploration. Such exploration is both ancient and continually relevant, as it can have effects in fields ranging from mental health and the study of disorders of consciousness to artificial intelligence and its domains of research and development.

(from the Wikipedia entry)

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How do I study it?

I use various method to study attention: psychophysics, eye-tracking, electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). See below for a list of publications that show how we employ these methods.

Michel Failing, PhD
Postdoctoral researcher

Postdoctoral researcher studying attention, learning, memory and perceptual decision-making.


(2019). Statistical regularities induce spatial as well as feature-specific suppression. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. (* shared first authorship).

Preprint Code Dataset Project Project Source Document DOI

(2019). Spatial suppression due to statistical regularities is driven by distractor suppression not target activation. Attention, Perception and Psychophysics (* shared first authorship).

Preprint PDF Dataset Project Project Source Document DOI

(2018). Selection history: How reward modulates selectivity of visual attention. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 25(2), 514-538.

Project Project Project Source Document DOI

(2017). People look at the object they fear: oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal threat. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 79(8), 2275-2298. (* shared first authorship).

PDF Project Project Source Document DOI

(2016). Value-modulated oculomotor capture by task-irrelevant stimuli is a consequence of early competition on the saccade map. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78(7), 2226-2240.

PDF Project Project Project Source Document DOI

(2016). Reward Affects the Perception of Time. Cognition, 148, 19-26.

PDF Project Project Source Document DOI

(2015). Oculomotor capture by stimuli that signal the availability of reward. Journal of Neurophysiology, 114(4), 2316-2327.

PDF Project Project Project Source Document DOI