What attention is (from a cognitive science point of view)

Wayne Wu, We know what attention is!, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 28, Issue 4, 2024 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2023.11.007.

Attention is one of the most thoroughly investigated psychological phenomena, yet skepticism about attention is widespread: we do not know what it is, it is too many things, there is no such thing. The deficiencies highlighted are not about experimental work but the adequacy of the scientific theory of attention. Combining common scientific claims about attention into a single theory leads to internal inconsistency. This paper demonstrates that a specific functional conception of attention is incorporated into the tasks used in standard experimental paradigms. In accepting these paradigms as valid probes of attention, we commit to this common conception. The conception unifies work at multiple levels of analysis into a coherent scientific explanation of attention. Thus, we all know what attention is.

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