Perceptual Load Theory

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Definitions for attention say that it is restricted, so selective attention enables individuals to block out irrelevant information and focus on the relevant information. For many years, psychologists have been debating on whether information is attended to early in the process or later in the process.

When individuals pay attention to their surroundings then they are more likely to be aware of what they see but if they do not pay attention, then they are not aware. E.g. failing to notice a friend’s haircut. Treisman’s and Broadbent’s models of attention are bottleneck examples illustrating individuals cannot attend all information simultaneously. Early selection occurs at the early stage of perception and late selection happens at the
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This theory refers to detecting stimuli that are irrelevant to a situation or a task (perceptual analysis). For example, studies for the early selection have various stimuli meaning there is high perceptual load. Whereas, the studies for the late selection have very little stimuli meaning there is low perceptual load. Therefore, selection can be early or late depending on the perceptual load of the specific situation or task. Previous research has been conducted to help further explain this theory. The research used neuroimaging to help explain and carried out by various people eg Pessoa et al. (2002), Rees et al. (1997,1999) and schwartz et al. (2005). They all found that perceptual load decreases activity in the brain linked to distractor perception. Neuroimaging evidence helps provide support for the effect of perceptual load. Schwartz (2005) used checkerboards to act as the distractors while the participants did a task. The study showed activity in the visual cortex linked to the checkerboards was reduced when comparing the high load task to the low load task. High perceptual load means there will be increased error rates and higher response times because of the highly difficult tasks and overall increased performance. However, it diminishes the distractor interference. To see whether this was the case, Lavie and de Fockert (2003) carried out an experiment. They made the…show more content…
The perceptual load theory suggests that selective attention is more efficient when depending on simultaneously the perceptual and cognitive load. The extensively debated question has been if selective attention occurs at the early or late stage of processing. The load theory states when a task has high load, the information has filled the capacity and there is no room for the distractors to be processed. This leaves individuals performing tasks that apply in the early approach. But, when a task has low load, all of the stimuli is put through processing with the distractors involving the late approach.Though the explanation for the early approach is more evident to answer this debate, Lavie incorporates both early and late approaches to answer the
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