Psychology and Psychiatry

Involuntary attention

Involuntary attention is a variation of attention arising due to the effect on the analyzers of a stimulus and consists in reproducing an image, a phenomenon, an object without the application of will power. This variation of attention is considered the most elementary of its variety, also characteristic of animals. Involuntary attention is observed even in infants, but at first it is unstable in nature and is relatively limited in volume. It arises suddenly autonomously from consciousness, regardless of the type of activity performed at that moment under the influence of various stimuli acting on the analyzer of the organism.

Causes of involuntary attention

The considered variation of attention is often referred to as passive or forced, since it originates and is maintained autonomously from human consciousness. Usually spontaneous attention arises due to a complex of reasons, including a variety of physical and psycho-physiological factors, as well as mental roots. All reasons are interdependent. In this case, they can be divided into the following categories.

The first is due to the nature of the stimulus from the outside. It takes into account, first and foremost, the strength or intensity of the stimulus. Any sufficiently powerful irritation provoked, for example, by loud sounds, intense light, strong odor, strong push, involuntarily attracts attention. However, the most significant value is not the absolute intensity of the stimulus, but the relative strength of the stimulus.

For example, when an individual is too much carried away by something, he does not notice weak “impulses”. Because their intensity is not too high in comparison with the intensity of the stimuli that make up the subject or condition of the individual's activity. At the same time, in other circumstances, for example, when wandering in the Morpheus Kingdom, human reactions to all sorts of rustles, squeaks, voices become quite sensitive.

It is believed that the occurrence of involuntary attention is associated with the coincidence of stimuli from the outside with the mental state of individuals, in particular with their needs. For example, a person who has a feeling of hunger will react differently to the mention in the conversation of food, rather than well-fed. The hungry subject to the chatter, in which we are talking about food, will involuntarily take notice. This feature is the second category of factors causing the considered variant of attention.

The third category is due to the general aspiration of the individual. The sphere of interests of people includes subjects and areas most of their interest (in particular, and professional interests). Therefore, a sudden "collision" with the subject of interest gives rise to the phenomenon in question. Therefore, the architect, walking along the narrow streets of an unfamiliar town, involuntarily draws attention to the elegance of old buildings.

Consequently, the general aspiration of the individual and the presence of previous experience have a direct impact on the formation of spontaneous attention.

Therefore, the phenomenon under consideration arises when one of the following conditions is present: an unexpected impulse, intensity of stimulus and novelty, contrast of phenomena or objects. The appearance of this variation of attention is also influenced by the inner mood of a person.

T. Ribot, a French psychologist, hypothesized that the unconscious attention is due to the deep recesses of the human being. The direction of the described species of attention of a specific individual demonstrates his character or his aspirations.

Based on this characteristic, it is possible to draw a conclusion regarding this individual, for example, that he is inherent in lightheadedness, simplicity, limitation, or vice versa, depth, sincerity. A beautiful view attracts the artist’s attention, influencing his innate aesthetic sense of beauty, whereas a person who follows this route every day sees only ordinariness in such a landscape.

Features of involuntary attention

The phenomenon in question is characterized by a lack of focus in the process of fixing the consciousness on a specific stimulus. This type of attention is considered to be its primary type, which is produced in the process of ontogeny at the preschool stage. The peculiarity of the described variation of attention is the absence of volitional regulation.

Thus, spontaneous attention is its primary form, due to reflex settings. It occurs due to the influence of external impulses. It is maintained without the conscious desire or intention of the individual. The property of the acting stimuli, their emotional coloring, strength or novelty, connectedness with the needs determine the capture and riveting of attention to individual phenomena, objects, persons.

The physiological basis of spontaneous attention is an unconditioned-reflex guiding activity. Its neurophysiological adaptation is the excitation coming from the subcortical zones of the cerebral hemispheres to its cortex.

The main condition for the emergence of involuntary attention is the lack of confrontation of motives, the conflict of interests inherent in its arbitrary form, where an individual can be “torn off” by rival impulses that have different directions, but which can attract and retain the consciousness of the individual.

Thus, the peculiarity of the phenomenon under consideration lies in its origin, with the prevalence of external stimuli over the power of arbitrary impulses, when subdominant stimuli are made more intense in some conditions and circumstances than the leading ones at the moment.

The catalysts of the considered variation of attention are not always external objects, conditions, but also needs, desires, emotional states, that is, everything that concerns or interests a person.

Often it occurs when the individual is tired against the background of adverse conditions (hot or cold, stuffy, musty air) or when the work that the individual does not take does not require active mental activity.

Passive attention is characterized by a short-term course, but under a number of conditions, in accordance with the strength of third-party stimuli affecting an individual, it can appear quite often, interfering with leading activity.

The considered variation of attention differs from its arbitrary colleague by the presence of the obligatory component - will. Non-passive attention is characterized by a conscious concentration of the individual on certain phenomena or objects of the surrounding world.

Involuntary attention of children

The history of the study of attention to this day in psychological science remains a rather controversial aspect. Some psychologists are convinced that attention does not exist, there is only the prevalence of one or the other processes of the psyche: mental activity, perception, memory. Indeed, when a subject examines something with concentration - his perception functions, when he invents something, fantasizes - his imagination is turned on. From here it may seem that there is no place for attention. However, in these actions there is an approximately similar state of mind, its focus on specific events of reality. Actually, such a special concentration is attention, without which it is impossible to perform any actions even the most elementary.

Attention is characterized by the absence of its own specific product. Because it is impossible to be busy with attention. The result of attention is to improve any activity.

Ushinsky wrote that attention is the door that no element of the teaching can pass, otherwise it will not be able to get into the child's soul.

Halperin in his turn argued that attention as an autonomous process is not shown anywhere, it is revealed as the direction, aspiration and concentration of any mental phenomenon on its own object only as a side or quality of this phenomenon.

Consequently, attention represents the orientation and focus of consciousness on specific objects or activities against a background of distraction from the rest.

Uruntaeva considered attention as aspiration and fixation of mental processes on a certain phenomenon when abstracting from others.

Selective aspiration of perception is directed either to objects of the external environment or to one’s own experiences and thoughts.

Therefore, attention is the basis of any mental activity. It is scientifically established that the effectiveness of training is determined by the level of development of attention. Hence, a common cause of child failure in learning activities is precisely inattention.

The ability to control one's own concentration exists in all individuals, but there is also passive attention, which is a reaction to an unexpectedly generated stimulus. It is completely impossible to disconnect it, even a trained individual will react to a sudden phenomenon. It is on the described effect that advertising is often built. This phenomenon is often used by lecturers in order to maintain the interest of the public.

Involuntary attention in psychology is the selective focus of perception, characterized by the absence of regulation and conscious choice of a course. In the phenomenon under consideration, mental activity proceeds as if spontaneously, without meaningful volitional efforts and intentionality. It originates due to exposure to internal stimuli and external stimuli. Loud sound, burning smell, bright light - are incentives from the outside. Interests, feelings, needs, significant for the individual are internal factors.

Spontaneous attention, also referred to as passive, is considered to be genetically original and the simplest. It originates, and also remains without dependence from the purposes planned by the person. Here there is a spontaneous "capture" by the activity of the individual due to his own fascination, brightness, surprise.

Kids at the initial stage of formation do not know how to manage their own attention. They are able to captivate any detail - a mobile phone, mom's curlers, a newspaper. Little crumbs at this age are rather inquisitive and curious.

In preschoolers, passive attention is prevalent. It is partly due to the assimilation and differentiation of the knowledge gained.

As the baby grows, it learns about the existence of many varieties of animals, about the diversity of insects and plants, about people with different color of skin, hair, and eyes. At first, the parents give the kids knowledge, then - the crumbs independently discover the world, reacting to something bright, extraordinary, remarkable, to the previously unknown.

The initial stage of the formation of children is marked by the lack of ability to regulate their own attention, so the kids only have passive attention.

That is why the crumbs sometimes attract strange things that have fallen into their field of vision. Here the baby gazes at the new toy, but after a second reaches for her mother's favorite vase. Actually, due to this peculiarity, the crumbs can so easily distract from the unwanted object of attention or switch when the baby hits and cries. Parents often resort to such actions.

The paradox is that first and foremost, parents use the described feature of the attention of crumbs in order to distract them from fragile objects, cartoons or crying, but then they begin to scold the child for similar inattention and reproach him for absent-mindedness. Parents should understand that the child is not inattentive, but rather on the contrary, is concentrated enough, but only on the subject, phenomenon, object, which is interesting for him at the moment. That is why it is simply meaningless to demand attention from the child until the age of five.

Spontaneous attention is generated by new, most vivid, alluring and interesting items at a particular moment for the baby. At the preschool stage, the crumb is already able to perform any manipulations for quite a long time, if they are interesting to him, do not require special internal efforts, and are also based only on a spontaneous process.

Pre-schoolers begin to concentrate their own attention on one particular action only closer to the six-year period. Therefore, before reaching this age, the crumbs should be praised for any successful attempts at fixation on one act or object, emphasizing their determination, perseverance and will. The kid will feel that his attempts are appreciated by significant adults, and therefore will begin to try harder, in order to surprise parents with their own small victories over mastering voluntary attention.

If attempts at concentrating in a baby are unsuccessful, it is unnecessary to scold him or react negatively. Such behavior can only discourage the preschooler from all kinds of pursuits.

Considering the variation of attention is considered its simplest option, however, in order to maintain involuntary attention, as well as its occurrence, certain conditions must be met.

Initially, the formation of this phenomenon is due to evolution. Previously, he helped avoid unwanted encounters with predators and helped track down potential prey. Today, dangerous predators do not threaten humans. In order to provide themselves with food, it is enough for him to just visit the nearest store, but involuntary attention has not ceased to exist, it all also manifests itself with the sudden appearance of an irritant. The operation of this mechanism is unconditional. The most rapid reaction is detected when moving (because a moving object is a bright signal that carries a danger), intense exposure (as a powerful sound or rustle in absolute silence, unexpectedly lit light in pitch darkness also signal a probable threat), novelty of the phenomenon (for any uncertainty often hides trouble)