Professor Investigates What Grabs Your Attention

Dr. Bryan Burnham researches selective attention.

Ever wonder why you notice one advertisement over another, why you pay attention to a siren, or how you manage to find your car in a crowded parking lot? Psychology Professor Bryan Burnham, Ph.D., does, and he focuses his research on understanding the cognitive complexities involved in “selective attention.”

“I look at how phenomena draw attention, and if then we can manipulate that. Our understanding of these mechanisms can eventually lead to developing ways to help you focus more and ways to become less distracted,” Dr. Burnham said.

So far, Dr. Burnham’s studies have found two cognitive mechanisms in the brain causing attention, but he notes more may exist. The first is selection bias, or attentional bias, that is “once a stimulus is introduced, then there is a bias in favor of it.” The second is a memory retrieval mechanism, that is “when you process something, you retrieve a memory of something. You retrieve previous examples, such as pulling a color or shape into working memory.”

Read the original press release, here.

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