Models and Mechanisms of Attention

  • Ronald A. Cohen


Attention has been studied from a variety of different theoretical and scientific perspectives ranging from the examination of cellular mechanisms such as the graded potentials of single neurons to the complex systems encompassing multiple brain regions underlying consciousness. While historically quite a diverse set of behavioral phenomena have been investigated under the rubric of attention and many different methodological approaches employed, there has been considerable convergence of concepts regarding the nature of attention and the processes that underlie it. In the first edition of this book, a theoretical framework was proposed that specified four core elements of attention, each comprised of interrelated component processes [1]. To a large extent, the elements of this model have proven to be consistent with those put forth in other models of attention over the past 2 decades. In this chapter, the elements of this framework are reviewed from the perspective of different scientific approaches to the study of attention, and evidence supporting their validity is discussed. This framework will be revisited and discussed in relationship to other models and theories of attention in  Chap. 20.


Conditioned Stimulus Selective Attention Classical Conditioning Sustained Attention Response Demand 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Cohen, R. (1993). Neuropsychology of attention. New York, NY: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Stephan, B. C., Brayne, C., Savva, G. M., & Matthews, F. E. (2011). Occurrence of medical co-morbidity in mild cognitive impairment: Implications for generalisation of MCI research. Age and Ageing, 40(4), 501–507.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Norman, D. S., & Shallice, T. (1984). Attention to action: Willed and automatic control of behavior. In R. J. Davidson, G. E. Schwartz, & D. Shapiro (Eds.), Consciousness and self-regulation (Vol. 4, pp. 3–16). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rosenberg, P. B., Mielke, M. M., Appleby, B., Oh, E., Leoutsakos, J. M., & Lyketsos, C. G. (2011). Neuropsychiatric symptoms in MCI subtypes: The importance of executive dysfunction. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(4), 364–372.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ritchie, L. J., & Tuokko, H. (2010). Patterns of cognitive decline, conversion rates, and predictive validity for 3 models of MCI. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 25(7), 592–603.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Nie, H., Xu, Y., Liu, B., et al. (2011). The prevalence of mild cognitive impairment about elderly population in China: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(6), 558–563.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kaduszkiewicz, H., Zimmermann, T., Van den Bussche, H., et al. (2010). Do general practitioners recognize mild cognitive impairment in their patients? The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 14(8), 697–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fan, J., McCandliss, B. D., Sommer, T., Raz, A., & Posner, M. I. (2002). Testing the efficiency and independence of attentional networks. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14(3), 340–347.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Fan, J., McCandliss, B. D., Fossella, J., Flombaum, J. I., & Posner, M. I. (2005). The activation of attentional networks. NeuroImage, 26(2), 471–479.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Chan, W. C., Lam, L. C., Tam, C. W., et al. (2010). Prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms in Chinese older persons with mild cognitive impairment-a population-based study. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(10), 948–954.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Donders, F. C. (1869). On the speed of mental processes. In W. G. Koster (Ed.), Attention and performance II. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kahneman, D. (1973). Attention and effort. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Broadbent, D. E. (1952). Listening to one of two synchronous messages. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 44, 51–55.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Broadbent, D. E. (1958). Perception and communication. London: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Broadbent, D. E. (1971). Decision and stress. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Shiffrin, R. M., & Schneider, W. (1977). Controlled and automatic human information processing: II. Perceptual learning, automatic attending and a general theory. Psychological Review, 84, 127–190.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Norman, D., & Bobrow D. A. (1975). On data-limited and resource-limited processes. Cognitive Psychology, 7, 44–64.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Pavlov, I. P. (1927). Conditioned reflexes (G. V. Anrep, Trans.). London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Paskavitz, J. F., Sweet, L. H., Wellen, J., Helmer, K. G., Rao, S. M., & Cohen, R. A. (2010). Recruitment and stabilization of brain activation within a working memory task; an FMRI study. Brain Imaging and Behavior, 4(1), 5–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Mackworth, J. F. (1965). Deterioration of signal detectability during a vigilance task as a function of background event rate. Psychonomic Science, 3, 421–422.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald A. Cohen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry and AgingGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Center for Cognitive Aging and MemoryUniversity of Florida College of MedicineGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior Warren Alpert School of MedicineBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations