Kahneman's Model of Divided Attention

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The phenomenon of ‘Divided attention’ is the idea that an individual has the ability to divide their attention between two or more tasks (multi- tasking). Focused attention models such as Broadbent’s theory, Treisman’s theory and Deutsch and Deutsch model explains how all our inputs are focused on one task at a time, however it is clear from looking at everyday life that we are able to divide our attention, successfully being able to complete more than one task at the same time.

An area of everyday experience where divided attention is very relevant is the question of whether we can drive and talk on a mobile phone at the same time. The answer is a quite obvious ‘yes’ but the argument is that when doing this we put ourselves and others in danger because we’re not very good at it. We struggle to attend to both tasks simultaneously and to carry them out effectively. Our attentional capacity is being exceeded, often with catastrophic results (Strayer & Johnston, 2001).

Khaneman (1973) devised model of attention as he believed a limited amount of attention is allocated to tasks by a central processor. Many factors determine how much attentional capacity can be allocated and how much is needed to carry out a task, as the central processor has variable but limited capacity which is dependent on motivation and arousal. The central processor engages a variety of tasks such as motor, visual, auditory, memory and so on. The central processor evaluates the amount of concentration necessary to meet task demands, which forms the basis of allocation of capacity.

An analysis of factors that determine the allocation of attention was composed by Khaneman (1973) in which cognitive systems were formed and held responsible for allocating cogniti...

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...eeds the capacity. This may be the case, but there is no independent definition of the central processing capacity. So, task difficulty cannot be defined. The argument is circular as difficult tasks require more attention and tasks that require more attention are difficult.


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