Human attention

What is human attention, and is it so easy to understand, as it seems at first glance? And why do people need attention?

Let's try to deal with this unique phenomenon of the human psyche. After all, even if you are not fond of psychology, you will need the knowledge given in this article.

Psychologists call attention the focus of our psyche on some object or phenomenon for a more accurate and better perception. In other words, it is the ability to tune in to receive information.

Scientifically, this definition looks like this:

Attention - selective focus of perception on one or another object.

For example, when we carefully consider a person, we memorize it in detail: the color of the eyes, the shape of the nose, the gait, the sound of his voice.

Demonstration of switching attention: you see a black vase, then two heads turned to each other

Types of attention

Attention happens arbitrary and involuntary. A brief look at each of these types of attention.


Involuntary attention arises of its own accord when we feel a strong impact on any of the senses. Anything can attract our attention: the intriguing title of an article on the cover of a magazine, familiar music, an unusually dressed pedestrian or a clump of snow that fell behind a collar.

The main causes of involuntary attention: unexpectedness of the stimulus, its relative strength and novelty.


Arbitrary attention requires some effort from us and is always directed at some goal. Therefore, to keep it consciously quite difficult.

If you try to focus on any one subject, then after a few minutes we will notice that we were distracted by something more interesting.

Forms of attention

Since attention acts as a side of cognitive processes as an activity directed at an object, then, depending on the content of this activity, it is distinguished:

  • external attention (sensory-perceptual) - drawn to the objects of the external world. A necessary condition for the knowledge and transformation of the external world;
  • internal attention (intellectual) - drawn to the objects of the subjective world of man. A necessary condition for self-knowledge and self-education;
  • motor attention - attention is directed to the movements and actions performed by man.

Attention Properties

Psychologists identify five main characteristics or properties of attention. Consider them.

1. Concentration

Attention concentration is holding attention on an object. Such a hold means the selection of an “object” as a certain certainty or a figure from the general background.

2. Volume

Attention volume is the number of objects that are covered at the same time. The amount of attention usually fluctuates in adults from 4 to 6 objects, among schoolchildren (depending on age) from 2 to 5 objects.

A person with a large amount of attention may notice more objects, phenomena, events. It is worth knowing that the amount of attention can be expanded by careful study of objects in the situation in which they have to be perceived.

3. Sustainability

Attentional stability is characterized by the duration during which the concentration of attention remains at the same level.

That is, it is the ability to keep attention on a particular object or activity for as long as possible.

4. Switching

Switching attention is a conscious and purposeful change in the direction of consciousness from one object to another.

Only on these conditions speak of switchability. When these conditions are not met, they talk about distractibility.

5. Distribution

Distribution of attention is the ability to hold in the center of attention several disparate objects or subjects. That is, this ability to simultaneously engage in several activities.

Surely now you understand the importance of attention for the full life of a person. Especially when it comes to who wants to develop.

Actually, that is why personal growth is inextricably linked with the development of attention in general, and its main properties (volume and concentration) in particular.

In the picture you can see a duck, which is directed to the left, or a hare, which is directed to the right.

Watch the video: Attention, distraction and the war in our brain: Jean-Philippe Lachaux at TEDxEMLYON (April 2020).