Attention is a hot topic when it comes to learning! There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to visual attention, however. Visual attention is an area of visual processing that is more than just focusing on a task or leaning activity. Visual attention is a visual skill necessary for noticing details, adjusting to patterns, reading, and so much more of the giant visual processing umbrella. Read on to discover what is visual attention and how this visual skill impacts so much of what we do.
What is visual attention?
First, it’s important to recognize where visual attention lies in the visual processing umbrella. Visual processing is an aspect that includes the cognitive components, once visual information is received through oculomotor skills and visual acuity.
Visual attention is an area of obtaining visual information and communicating that information with the brain. This collection of information requires several eye mobility skills including: voluntary eye movements, visual fixation, smooth pursuits (or visual tracking) and visual scanning.
Additionally, visual perceptual skills are included in visual attention. These skills allow us to discriminate details and fill in “missing pieces” such as partially obscured portions of the form and to use the “mind’s eye” to visualize those aspects.
About Visual Processing…
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Visual Attention includes several areas:
1.) Alertness- Defined as “the quality of being alert”, alertness is that watchful and attentive manner of being ready and responsive to visual information. Visual alertness requires focused vision and keenness to a specific object or area in the visual field.
2.) Selective Attention- The ability of noticing and processing specific information while disregarding other, less relevant information describes selective attention. This ability to discern visual information is needed for attending visually to information.
3.) Surrounding Attention- This aspect of attention refers to the surroundings and position in space. An awareness of our body position and the environment happening around us, including distance impacts attention at large.
4.) Mindful Alertness- The ability to be mindful and aware of visual input with a concentrated effort allows attention needed for participating in a visual task. The continuous alertness in a focused state allows us to attend with intention.
5.) Shared Attention- This aspect of visual attention allows us to shift focus between visual input. This can involve filtering of unnecessary information.
Visual Attention and Preattentive Features
If visual attention is depiction of and focusing on specific qualities of a form, then preattentive features are basic features of visual information that are automatically noticed by the eyes. These features are easily pulled out of a background or group in a visual display.
Preattentive features include:
- Depth Cues
- Aspects of Shape
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Wolfe J. Visual attention. In: De Valois KK, editor. Seeing. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA:
Academic Press; 2000. p. 335-386.