Cognitive Psychophysiology: Event-Related Potentials and the Study of Cognition

By Emanuel Donchin | Go to book overview

4
Report of Panel I: Selective Attention
Panel chair: M. Posner
Panel members: R. Harter
S. Hillyard
A. Treisman

Posner: During the discussions of the panel on selective attention we were struck by some of the similarities between the concepts of early and late selection, as defined by cognitive psychologists, and the distinction made in psychophysiology between the N100 and the P300 components. Given this parallelism, we sought ways in which important problems of cognitive psychology could be approached using joint behavioral and ERP methodology. We discussed seven related topics. These topics were: (1) the definition of a channel; (2) attention: facilitation or suppression? (3) the time course of selection; (4) the processing of features and conjunctions; (5) category selection; (6) discrete versus continuous processes; and (7) arousal and selection. In this session we shall deal with a subset of these issues.

In general, we shall describe psychological issues whose resolution may be advanced by the joint application of behavioral and psychophysiological methods. We shall review the relevant data and we shall suggest experiments, sometimes in fairly great detail, some rather more sketchily.

As "selective attention" is often defined as a process that selects among input "channels", it is natural to begin with the difficulties encountered when trying to define the term channel. Russ Harter will begin the review of this topic.

Harter: Because attention, by definition, is selective, one of the first questions our panel considered was "what is being selected?" The answer often given to this question is that "a channel" is selected. This leads to the next question, "what is a channel?" Regardless of how a channel is defined, its definition, to avoid circularity, should be independent of the definition of attention; that is, it is inadequate to define attention as the process that allows

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