Welcome! This blog has been created to teach about the importance of attention in learning. I hope everyone will find this blog informative. Please feel free to leave a comment!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Defining Attention

 According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, attention is defined as: the act or state of applying the mind to something. Starting in grade school, students are taught to continually pay attention to their teachers. Later in life, adults are taught to pay attention to most everything, finances, children, etc. For example, as a nurse I must continually pay attention to my patients, their vital signs and their medicines in order for me to adequately take care of them.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2011). Attention. Retrieved from:

The Importance of Attention

  "If we want to move information from the sensory register into working memory, it appears that, at least in most cases, we must pay attention to it." (Ormrod, 2008, p. 171) The ability to show attention to certain things is vital to our lives, imagine if you never payed attention to your finances? Can you conceive what kind of financial state you and your family would be in?  As a student, it is extremely important to be able to pay attention to your studies. As an online learner, I have encountered problems dividing my attention between my family, work and school. In my next blog I will list several factors that influence attention.


Ormrod, J. (2008). Human Learning (5th ed.). Pearson: Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Factors Influencing Attention

There are several factors that can influence attention: motion, size, intensity, novelty, incongruity, emotion, personal significance and social cues. (Ormrod, 2008) Each of these factors can increase or decrease a persons attention to a certain object, person or concept.
  • Motion: Adults and children are more likely to pay attention to an object with there is motion involved. (Ormrod, 2008)
    •   Example: Children are more drawn to toys that move such as toy cars.
  • Size: Objects or text that are larger gain more attention than normal or small objects.  
    • Example: Traffic signs are large and are usually in all capital letters.

  •   Intensity: Intense objects or text garner attention. 
    • Example: Bright colors attract more attention than plain black text. 
  •  Novelty: "Stimuli that are novel or unusual is some way tend to draw people's attention."         (Ormrod, 2008, p. 172) 
    • Example: A person will pay attention to a two-headed goat before a one-headed goat, because a two-headed is not something that a person see every day.
  •  Emotion: Words with strong emotional connections seem to gain more attention than others. 
    • Example: In nursing school, our teacher would say, "this could kill your patient", when she would say that all students would perk up and pay attention due to the nature of her statement.
  • Personal Significance:  A person is more likely to pay attention to a person or concept that hold personal significance to them.
    • Example: If a person has had a family member or friend diagnosed with cancer, they are more likely to pay attention to a lecture about cancer, because they know how it could affect their lives.
  • Social cues: "People are more likely to pay attention to things they see others looking at or reacting to." (Ormrod, 2008, p. 173)
    • Example: If you see a crowd of people staring at something you will try to find out what the group is reacting to, its human curiosity.  

Here is a link to a website that you can test your brain and work on your attention span!
Advantage & Disadvantages of Attention

 Advantages: The advantages of attention are relatively clear. By paying attention, a person in able to place information in working memory storage. By placing information into a working memory storage the person is able to recall this information when needed.

 Disadvantages: A person has a limited capacity for attention. "Psychologists proposed that people can pay attention to only one thing at a time." (Ormrod, 2008, p. 175)

For example: The Peter-Paul goblet.
Early Gesalt psychologists developed the theory that a person can only pay attention to one object at a time. Carefully inspect this picture, does your attention focus on the goblet or the two faces?

Another disadvantage to attention is that many people have problems with attention due to excessive active or impulsiveness. (Barkley & Murphy, 2006) Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a disorder that psychologists are just starting to fully understand. Most children are diagnosed with ADHD at an early age. Treatment options for ADHD vary depending on the severity of the disorder, ranging from medications to counseling.

Here is a link to the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) magazine, it is very informative- http://www.chadd.org/Content/CHADD/AttentionMagazine/default.htm

Also, here is a link to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association website-http://www.add.org/site/PageServer

Barkley, R. & Murphy, K. (2006). Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (3rd ed.). Guilford         Publications: New York, NY.

Ormrod, J. (2008). Human Learning (5th ed.). Pearson: Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Theories that incorporate attention..

Social Learning Theory

The social learning theory is derived from the work of Albert Bandura. Bandura suggested that "people learn from one another via observation, imitation, and modeling." (Learning Theories Knowledge base, 2011)  Modeling is learning a behavior from the observation of the behavior of other individuals. For effective modeling to take place, attention has to be payed by the observer to the model.

Theories Knowledgebase (2011, April). Social Learning Theory (Bandura) at Learning-Theories.com.  Retrieved April 17th, 2011 from: http://www.learning-theories.com/social-learning-theory-bandura.html

Final thoughts on attention..

As adults or students, we must learn how to harness our attention, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. We must be aware of factors that influence our attention and get rid of any distractions. As a nurse, it is extremely important for me to be able to cut out any distractions and focus on my patient, it could be a life or death situation. Also, as an online learner I am problems focusing my attention to school work when I have so many other distractions at my home. I use factors such a personal significances and emotional association to focus my attention on my school. 

I hope you found this blog on the importance of attention to be useful and informative! Please feel free to email me with any questions.