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PSY540 SNHU Attention Unconsciousness and Consciousness Discussion

Attention is a cognitive function that plays a central role in almost everything we do throughout the day. Based on this week’s readings ( (other reading is attached), discuss the area/aspect of attention that you think is most important for or most influential on cognition. For example, when is vigilance or divided attention important for cognitive processing? Or how can unconscious processing influence our perception of an item? Be sure to support your opinions with specific terms and theories from the readings. How could you apply the ideas you have discussed to different settings, for example, in driving or advertising?

In your responses to your peers, consider how additional theories or ideas from the readings may support or challenge their ideas. Additionally, comment on how you could apply the theories your peer discusses or your peer’s ideas in an alternative setting.

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document.



I think it is interesting to discuss attention and what it truly means. As I was reading the text, I found it interesting to learn about attention and the different scenarios it discussed. Attention can mean so many things to us, but it is hard to define (another point that was made by our text). I think of the movieUP, and the dog that is easily distracted and runs around saying “squirrel”. My family uses this phrase whenever we are talking to someone and they lose attention. It is a way for us to tell someone to “pay attention” without having to tell them to. I think one of the most influential areas of attention is Kahneman’s model from 1973, which says attention is a limited cognitive resource that can be allocated to different tasks based on our intentions (McBride & Cutting, 2019, pg. 84). We have control over the tasks we choose to allocate more resources to and this choice depends on our interest in the task and our current intentions. For example, if I enjoy baking, I will give more attention to a show on baking than on a show on fishing. This is important thing that I learned early on in my college career. I made sure to have a psychology course with another course each term. I also made sure to work on my other, least favorite course first and then would reward myself with studies from my psychology course. I think this process and way of thinking helped me to stay on task and focus or give the required amount of attention to the important things to complete my work. I made sure to have more course workload balanced each day, which helped me with where my attention was given.

I am a multi-tasker by heart. If I can do more than one task at one time, the better off I am. I have noticed that at times, though, my attention is more focused on one thing than the other, but it works for me. I enjoyed reading the study by Strayer and Johnston (2001) that studied the dual-task condition, which looked at attention and response time while driving a car while listening to the radio, driving a car using a hand-held cell phone and driving a car using a hands-free cell phone. The results indicated that those in the cell phone groups missed more red lights and responded more slowly to stopping than those in the radio group. Studies like this show that in certain situations our cognitive abilities can only handle a certain amount of distraction. Just think about everything that is going on when we are driving without distractions like screaming kids or holding an intense cell phone conversation. It makes perfect sense to me that cell phone use while driving would take a lot of our attention away from actually driving. I find it easy to “tune out” the radio when studying. In fact, I have a hard time focusing when everything around me is quiet. My mind tends to wander with every sound or movement my eye catches.

The instance theory of automaticity suggests that our once controlled attentional processes become automatic – think driving a car. According to Logan’s theory, automaticity occurs through encoding and retrieval of multiple experiences with a task (i.e., driving a car, riding a bike, skateboarding) (McBride & Cutting, 2019). Our attention is controlled and required for the encoding and retrieval of information about the task in memory, but with many experiences of the task stored in our memories, eventually the retrieval of the task becomes automatic (McBride & Cutting, 2019). One example I can think of that I can apply this theory to is when I am at work. I work at an Assisted Living Facility that has three main hallways to get to the residents’ rooms. When I first started working there, I found it very difficult to walk down the correct hallway when needing to go to a resident’s room. I frequently found myself walking down the wrong one. Eventually, I learned who lives down each hallway and their rooms. Now I rarely bother to think when I need to give medications to a resident. I know at noon there are a certain number of residents that receive medications and my legs take me there. Half the time I am double checking the room prior to knocking because I did not pay attention to where I was going. It has now become automatic.



In our lives there are multiple things happening at once and sometimes we can get overwhelmed with it all and this ‘stress’ can be released in a multitude of ways. For example, we are driving in the car and there is almost no traffic on the road, with this we can participate in the cocktail party affect because we don’t have pay 100% attention the road. So we can blast the music in our car and eat our breakfast and pay attention to conversations in the car, but if we are in heavy traffic (rush hour) we turn the music down, everyone gets silent in the car so that we can pay attention to the vehicles all around us. Our brains cannot try to visual process the environment around us, blast music, talk to others in the car, and eat a sandwich all at the same time because we do not have enough cognitive abilities to do all of that. This would be an example of the Integration Theory of Attention, “…separate stages of processing contribute to focused attention” (Mcbride & Cutting, 2019, p. 85). This can be important in our everyday lives because we make unconscious (first stage) and conscious (second stage) about the world around us and how we need or should respond.

To help people understand the world around them it may be a good idea to seek an existentialist therapist. We can become overwhelmed in the world around us and feel like maybe we don’t belong but an existentialist therapist can help us with these feelings. “Existential counseling maintains that disturbance is an inevitable experience for virtually everyone; the question is not so much how to avoid it as it is how to face it with openness and a willingness to engage with life rather than a tendency to retreat, withdraw or refrain from responsibility” (Mulhauser, 2014). Everyone is made up differently and there are times at which our plate can become overwhelmed and we try to multi-task everything we need to do and existential therapy may help a person see that they are a person that falls under the single-task condition and not the dual-task condition. For myself I cannot do school work or studying in a completely quiet room, there must be some kind of noise, so I would say that I fall into the dual-task condition because I can hear the noise in the background but it does not go through the filter and take over my thoughts or divert my attention unless I pay attention to it.

Now we cannot train our brains become better with handling multiple attention grabbing processes but rather we can train ourselves to stay inline with how much our brain can handle. As Dr. Mulhauser (2014) put it, “…clients who view their problems as challenges of living, rather than symptoms of psychopathology, and clients who are genuinely attracted to increasing self awareness and self examination, will be well served by existential counseling.” This flows inline with the Simon effect, because when a person hears the word right and that an object will appear on the right or left side of the screen and then click when they see that object, they don’t know what to do when a object appears on the left side. Our brains hear the word right so we mentally prepare to focus on the right, we prepare our right hand to click when the object appears, so our cognitive abilities are tested when it appears on the left. Everything must be taken in stride and we must avoid as much as possible from overloading our cognitive abilities and using the bottom-top or top-bottom processing, so we can stay afloat in the world around us and not cause an extreme shock to our cognitive abilities.


Mulhauser, G. (2014, December 20). An Introduction to Existential Counseling. Counselling Resource. Retrieved from

Mcbride, D.M., & Cutting, J.C. (2019). Cognitive Psychology: Theory, Process, and Methodology. 2nd ed. Location: Thousand Oaks, C.A.

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