Attention

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The word ‘attention’ covers a multitude of sins. It hardly gets a mention here. In the framework and sensory+motivational contexts described here, there is no distinction between attention and task-dependency. The example on vernier acuity illustrates this point. Changing the task, or directing attention to a different aspect of the stimulus, can alter the way a person perceives it.

The advantage of specifying a ’base representation’ is that it becomes clear how the eyes or attention can move around the scene filling in detail and, depending on the task, different aspects of the scene can be used to control a particular action. Attention is often seen as an ‘extra’, like a searchlight or a mechanism for turning up the gain on the basic operations of vision. That may be the wrong way to understand it. For example, it is probably unhelpful to describe the amoeba as ‘attending to the sugar’ when it crawls towards it. Instead, the emphasis in these pages is on the specific use of particular aspects of the visual scene (or, more generally, sensory inputs) in particular motivational contexts (including different tasks). This may include many phenomena that are often described as ‘attentional’.

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