Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Disengagement of Attention

  • Michael S. WordenEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1292


Unlocking of attentional focus


A process that enables shifting of the focus of selective attention from one location to another.

Historical Background

Michael Posner and his colleagues (1982, 1990) argued that in order to shift from one spatial location to another, people must first “disengage” their attention from an initial visual target or location. This process takes time and has other costs associated with it. Posner recognized that attention is a dynamic process and that its focus shifts to different spatial locations or objects according to current behavioral goals and according to the demands of the environment. The metaphor of an “attentional spotlight” was used. A number of distinct stages are required for attention to move from one focus to another according to Posner: first, attention must disengage from its current focus; second, it must move to the new location; and finally, it must then engage at the new location. Neuropsychological and...

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References and Readings

  1. Corbetta, M., & Shulman, G. L. (2002). Control of goal-directed and stimulus-driven attention in the brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 3, 201–215.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Losier, B. J., & Klein, R. M. (2001). A review of the evidence for a disengage deficit following parietal lobe damage. Neuroscience & Biobehavioural Reviews, 25, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Posner, M. I., & Petersen, S. E. (1990). The attention system of the human brain. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 13, 25–42.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Posner, M. I., Cohen, Y., & Rafal, R. D. (1982). Neural systems control of spatial orienting. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 298, 187–198.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeuroscienceBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA