Attention always precedes perception. Attention is the central process and perception is not at all possible without attention. The process of attention serves the various functions in the organization of our perception and other cognitive functions.
Functions of Attention
The following are some of the key functions relating to Attention, which are listed below
Attention here refers to a state of focused awareness with the readiness to respond. Distraction in such a case occurs with some interference which prevents the individual to continue with the task.
For example, when a teacher in a class asks the student to pay attention, it means the student can create such conditions where he prepares himself to be alert.
The most important function of attention is selectivity. The selective function acts as a filter that allows information in and the unwanted information out. Here, the attention is focused on stimulus of ongoing interest, others being ignored.
For example, when you are in a tea party organized by your friend, you take a plate of snacks and cup of tea and stand chatting in your group of friends. While you are chatting, if you suddenly hear your name from some other group, your attention is diverted and you might start paying attention towards the group where you heard your name. This example shows that we can selectively attend to one task at a time and the ongoing task in this case is ignored.
Limited Capacity Channel
It has been observed that we have quite limited capacity to process information that is available in the outside world. It means, we can process one task at a time. The task that requires multi-tasking cannot be carried out simultaneously because we have limited capacity to process the information.
For example, it is difficult to study or learn something from your book while you are listening to music. It is difficult as the task requires a lot of attention, so it is difficult to perform both simultaneously unless one task is highly practiced and done in routine to carry out these functions.
Maintaining attention on a continuous task for a long time leads to vigilance. It has been observed that, attending to a task for long, particularly if the task is monotonous leads to poor performance.
For example: When you go on writing the same thing for 700 times, you tend to make mistakes after some time and this is because of central fatigue occurring due to monotonous task.
Thus, attentional processes serves the tuner function in filtering information selected for further processing that finally leads to perception.