Factors Affecting Attention and Its Type


In cognitive psychology, attention refers to an individual’s ability to process information in his\her environment. You are also experiencing many visuals, sounds, and sensations all around you. Cognitive psychologists are interested in understanding how a person can experience many of these sensations while remaining focused on one task at a time.

Factors Affecting Attention

In simple language, attention is determined by three factors: the stimulus, the individual, and the situation.  For convenience, we divided it into two categories to understand it in a better way.

Internal Factors

These elements encourage the individual to respond to objective factors and to engage in activities that fulfill his/her own goals, as well as those that suit his interests and attitude. It is the perceiver’s mental state.


Our basic wants and motivations drive our interest in a major part; thirst and hunger, sexual anxiety, and curiosity are only a few of the primary factors that influence our attention; for example, kids are drawn to food.


The physical state of an individual influence their mood. As a result, tiredness and discomfort, as well as fever, might make mobilizing attention more challenging. If, on the other hand, a person is in a survival state, such as thirst or hunger, stimuli associated with meeting these demands will attract more attention to resources.


Interest is the origin point of attention. We pay attention to things that attract us. We want to watch a movie or a TV series because the subject of the film or series interests us. When a topic of our interest is discussed during a gathering, it quickly draws our attention and encourages us to participate in the conversation. We pay attention to the stimuli that attract us in our daily lives.


Stronger inspiring emotions are more likely to get attention. Positive emotions aid in the concentration of attention resources, whereas negative moods make concentration difficult.

External Elements

External factors are related to the characteristics of stimuli.  The situations described are frequently the outcome of external circumstances or stimuli that aid in attracting our attention.

  • Intensity: The more powerful a stimulus is greater the likelihood you will focus your attention on it.
  • Size: The larger a stimulus is, the more attention resources it draws.
  • Motion: The moving stimulus draws more attention than the ones that remain static.
  • Novelty: The latest or strange stimuli grab our focus.
  • Change: If a new stimulus comes that disrupts the dynamic, our attention will be drawn to it.
  • Colour: Colourful stimuli are more attractive than black and white ones.
  • Contrast: stimuli that are contrasted against one another draw more focus.
  • Emotional Burden: Positive, as well as negative stimuli, grab our interest more than neutral stimuli.

Type of Attention

Focused Attention

A brief response to a highly specific tactile, auditory, or visual stimulus that can last as little as eight seconds. For example, a phone ringing or an unexpected event can cause someone to be focused on it for a few minutes before returning to their task or focusing on something unrelated to the phone ringing.

Sustained Attention

A level of concentration that produces consistent results for the same task over a long period of time. For example, if a person is washing dishes with sustained focus and commitment, they will perform the work until it is completed. If a person loses concentration and stops halfway through a task, they should switch to a different task.

The majority of adults and teenagers are incapable of maintaining sustained attention on a single task for more than twenty minutes and will instead choose to refocus on the task, allowing them to pay attention to things that are longer, such as movies.

Divided Attention

Do you have the ability to multitask? If you’re like most individuals, you do it on a regular basis. Perhaps you’re cleaning your house while talking on the phone with someone. Many people today can be seen on the streets texting while talking to someone. We use two-way attention when we look at two things at the same time.

There are times when divided attention is more tolerable than in other situations. Cleaning your house while on the phone, for example, may be simple if there aren’t too many things to focus on.

Texting while trying to communicate with someone in front of you, on the other hand, is far more challenging. The degree to which you are accustomed to dividing your attention and your age both affect your ability to do so.

Selective Attention

When there are a lot of stimuli (especially task-related stimuli), it’s easier to avoid irrelevant stimuli, according to research. When there are simply a few stimuli, however, the brain can perceive both irrelevant and relevant stimuli.

With practice, some people can interpret many inputs. Trained Morse-code operators, for example, have been able to replicate 100% of a message while having a meaningful conversation.

This is based on the reflexive response that arises from “overlearning” the ability of Morse-code transcription to the point where it is a self-contained function that requires no special attention.

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