Add And Learning Strategies
Attention can be defined as the process of selecting certain environmental inputs needed for cognitive processing. Information that we are capable of sensing stays with us in the sensory register for a very brief period of time. From this point the information is cognitively processed. The role of attention can be found in the moving of this information from the sensory register into the working memory.
Normal attention span seems to develop in three stages. First, the child’s attention is said to be overly exclusive. This is a term used by psychologists to describe attention that is focused on a single object for a long period of time while tuning out all other stimuli. An example of this would be a baby who focuses totally on a button or a pin on the clothing of the person holding him.
Second, a child’s attention develops to where it is overly inclusive. This refers to a very wide span of attention that is constantly and rapidly changing from one object to another such as a toddler who is running from one toy to the next never able to stay with any one toy for any period of time. A child who is stuck at the second stage of attention span development might be diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder.
Third, the child develops selective attention where he is able to shift focus at will from being inclusive to being very exclusive. This is a mature pattern of attention and concentration that is required to be successful in a classroom learning environment.
There is said to be certain key stimuli that have a direct affect on attention. These factors have influence on what is paid attention to and inturn, stored in one’s working memory.
Size – Children tend to notice and attend to large objects
Intensity- Stimuli that penetrates the senses intensely will be attended to. Such as loud noises, or bright colors.
Novelty- Original, new, and unusual stimuli that stray from the norm will attract a child’s attention.
Incongruity- Objects or scenarios that do not make sense tend to draw attention.
Emotion- Stimuli with strong emotional connotation will be noticed immediately. Such as the word “Boo!” provoking a child’s fear or laughter.
Personal Significance- A child will pay attention to that which interests them at that given time. Ex. A toy may take precedent over food or vice versa.
Attention can be viewed as one’s ability to attend to the stimuli around them. A normal attention span is said to be limited in capacity in regards to focusing on one stimulus at a time. However, certain people, namingly children, have an even more restricted condition. It is estimated that from 3 to 10 percent of the population has this disability known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). The essential feature of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development. Some symptoms that cause impairment must have been present before age seven although many individuals are diagnosed after the symptoms have been present for a number of years. Impairment must be present in at least two settings; home and school or work. There must be clear evidence of interference with developmentally appropriate social, academic, or occupational functioning. This disorder is said to be found more often in boys than girls. Medical research has shown that AD/HD is the result of underactivity in an area of the brain involving the frontal lobe and basal ganglia. These areas of the brain are responsible for inhibiting or controlling impulsive and disruptive behavior. Research has also shown that genetics plays a significant role in AD/HD as well.
There are a variety of causes for poor attention, concentration and impulse control. A partial list would include the following:
Immaturity and slow psychological development
Learning disabilities such as dyslexia
Lack of sufficient sleep
Boredom due to lack of challenge
To diagnose AD/HD, mental health professionals ask parents and teachers to observe children and rate their behavior using