Sunday, 30 December 2012

Attention and distraction, the tools for popularity

In cognitive psychology there are at least two models which describe how visual attention operates. These models may be considered loosely as metaphors which are used to describe internal processes and to generate hypotheses that are falsifiable. Generally speaking, visual attention is thought to operate as a two-stage process. In the first stage, attention is distributed uniformly over the external visual scene and processing of information is performed in parallel.
In the second stage, attention is concentrated to a specific area of the visual scene (i.e. it is focused), and processing is performed in a serial fashion. The first of these models to appear in the literature is the spotlight model. The term "spotlight" was inspired by the work of William James who described attention as having a focus, a margin, and a fringe. The focus is an area that extracts information from the visual scene with a high-resolution, the geometric center of which being where visual attention is directed. Surrounding the focus is the fringe of attention which extracts information in a much more crude fashion (i.e. low-resolution).
This fringe extends out to a specified area and this cut-off is called the margin. The second model that is called the zoom-lens model, and was first introduced in 1983. This model inherits all properties of the spotlight model (i.e. the focus, the fringe, and the margin) but has the added property of changing in size. This size-change mechanism was inspired by the zoom lens you might find on a camera, and any change in size can be described by a trade-off in the efficiency of processing. In understand the principles of attention it is equally important to understand Distraction and how we can use it to our advantage.

Distraction is the divided attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction is caused by: the lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources, and internal sources.
Multitasking could also be considered as distraction in situations requiring full attention on a single object (e.g. sports, academic tests, performance). The issue of distraction in the workplace is studied in interruption science. According to Gloria Mark, a leader in interruption science, the average knowledge worker switches tasks every three minutes, and, once distracted, a worker takes nearly a half-hour to resume the original task.
Alternatively Propagandising techniques of distraction are used in media manipulation. The idea is encourage the public to focus on a topic or idea that the compliance professional feels is supportive of their cause. By focusing attention, a particular ideology can be made to seem the only reasonable choice.
Magicians use distraction techniques to draw the audience's attention away from whichever hand is engaged in sleight of hand. Magicians can accomplish this by encouraging the audience to look elsewhere or by having an assistant do or say something to draw the audience's attention away. Sleight of hand is often used in close-up magic, performed with the audience close to the magician, usually within three or four meters, possibly in physical contact. It often makes use of everyday items as props, such as cards and coins.
In media or in retail and other forms of social interaction the tools of attention and distraction to enthesise or desensitise a piece of information can create false interest. Besides the basis need to survive and live, the constant bombardment of attention and distraction signals often motivates us to follow those avenues.  When fully immersed in a social event people will likely to follow the crowd and yet remain individual. In any occasion it is more educational to spot the objects and people that attract the most attention and leave them for last...


  1. These are great points. How to track and retain the attention is nowadays especially effective throughout website as well. If your looking to increase customers'engagement, this is where to do it...

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