Attentive! The mysteries of attention and their types

The Attention It is a mental process by which we select between the different stimuli that come to us continuously. We all know from experience that our Attention capacity is limited and that there are many open questions: how many aspects of reality are we capable of attending at the same time in a given moment? How many processes can occur simultaneously? How does the practice influence the performance of a task? Are there tasks that require more attention than others?

Effectively, some tasks demand more attention than others, but with continuous and constant practice, they can be executed automatically. When this happens you do not need to pay attention. When beginning any learning, we always put all our concentration; but with the passage of time and continuous and intensive practice, that task that was difficult for us to perform automatically, so that we focus our attention on another task at the same time we are able to execute the first without realizing it.


Examples include playing an instrument or driving a vehicle: the experienced driver can perform this activity without paying too much attention to changing gears or stepping on a pedal. This makes it possible for you to have a conversation at par, for example. In the same way, the musician focuses his concentration on expressing himself through the instrument he plays, and does not fixate on the fingers and hands, nor on his proper placement, although he immediately detects the slightest "failure".

Characteristics of the attention processes

The mysteries of attention they are revealed by knowing the main characteristics of the two main types of processes that regulate care and that can be summarized as follows:


Controlled processes
- They're slow
- Consume many resources of attention
- They are conscious processes
- It's about learned routines

Automatic processes
- They are fast
- They consume little attention
- They are processes, usually unconscious
- Occur intentionally

Types of attention

Generally, attention can be considered as synonymous with concentration and effort. Attention is a selective process. When one aspect of the environment is attended to, other aspects of the environment are generally neglected.

Psychologists who have studied attention have distinguished between two types of attention: selective attention and divided attention.

Selective attention According to various scholars, in the first case, that of selective attention, human beings process information in a serial way (that means they process an information element on each occasion, one after the other), even though they have a "warehouse" of memory where sensory information is kept for a short period of time.


The process would be developed in the following way: the stimuli arrive via sensorial to the information processing warehouse. But there is a selective filter that intercepts unwanted information and lets only the information that is going to be processed pass. There is a store located between the senses and the filter that retains the information not analyzed for a period of time so that it can be attended later. According to these experts, the information served becomes conscious information and becomes part of the long-term memory system.

Divided attention In the second case, what is called divided attention has to do with the capacity and resources available to attend to more than one stimulus at a time. As a task is repeatedly executed, it becomes more automatic, thus reducing the resources of attention that must be put in place, and can thus be employed in a second job.

On the other hand, for many psychologists, attention and awareness are the same thing; that is, we are aware of those things that we serve. Several studies have shown that we are able to perceive subliminal stimuli, that is, stimuli that are below the sensory threshold can influence the recognition of other stimuli that appear later. In short, we can say that the ability to attend to two tasks at once depends on the practice.

Marisol Nuevo Espín

Video: Test Your Awareness : Whodunnit?


Interesting Articles

Schools adapt teaching to digital platforms

Schools adapt teaching to digital platforms

A large number of schools in Spain is doing the effort to adapt teaching to digital platforms. To adapt to new technologies now use digital whiteboards that replace the traditional green or black...

How to take advantage of trips to educate

How to take advantage of trips to educate

If summer is synonymous with holidays, talking about this free time also means referring travels. These moments of rest are taken advantage of to know other places, either because of the leisure...

Depression in adolescents: how to detect and treat it

Depression in adolescents: how to detect and treat it

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics, AEP, estimates that around the 4% of adolescents in our country suffer from some type of depressive process. Depression has serious effects on the life of the...

Ready to be parents: fears and doubts

Ready to be parents: fears and doubts

Many parents are overwhelmed with the many decisions they must make regarding the education and health of their newborn child. And fears arise. Have you felt the vertigo of motherhood? Did you feel...