Attention and Perception and the Functions within the Brain

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Attention and Perception and the Functions within the Brain


PS-200 – Unit 3 Assignment

Attention and Perception and the Functions within the Brain

Our five senses are present for a variety of reasons. They allow us to hear the things happening around us, see what is in front of us, smell the air around us, taste the things we love, and feel the things that make us happy, but most important of all our senses allow us to become aware of our surroundings. This is also known as perception (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). Our senses will certainly be at play throughout your day, without your having to give any effort, but your ability to focus on something and selectively ignore other perceivable information around you, is known as attention. The brain, the central organ of the human nervous system, is what is responsible for the ability to be attentive and the ability for formulate perception of stimuli (Bertenthal & Rose, 2019). The mental process that allows us to adapt to our environment is the cognitive process. Attention, perception, sensation and memory are a part of a basic cognitive process that is not taught, rather basic human nature (Farmer & Matlin, 2016).


The ability to become aware of something through our senses is our perception of what is occurring. For information to be received in the brain from the environment our sensory system uses sensory input to transmit the information to our brain (Bertenthal & Rose, 2019). Previous knowledge stored in our long-term memory is recalled interpreting different stimuli activated by our senses to formulate perception. The visual stimuli from the outside world combined with your own previous knowledge allows these observations (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). In formulating perception, there are two different processes to be distinguished between, bottom-up processing and top down processing.

Bottom-up processing focuses on perception beginning with stimuli itself. This data driven process carries out stimuli from the retina to the visual cortex to analyze the information through electrical impulses created by transduction (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). Basically, we interpret stimuli with the most basic information and then interpret it into a perception. This lower-level cognition relies on the information received by our senses and then organizes that information (Farmer & Matlin, 2016).

Top-down processing uses contextual memory and recognition from previous patterns and a conclusion is drawn without detailed information. The interpretation different information, models, ideas, experience and expectations are how perception is formed, a high-level cognitive process (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). Top-down processing makes it possible to draw conclusions with broad and general information and the process occur without you even being aware of it and allows us to quickly make sense of the environment around us. Although this process allows our expectation to take control of our perceptions, it can be troublesome just the same (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). For example, in the paper you are reading you are likely to find spelling errors even though I have proofread my work multiple times. This is because my visual perception expects to see the appropriate spelling in what I am reading, and even when a word is misspelled, top-down processing will enable me to read without hesitation and my brain will simply fill in the missing letters and text errors as I read, therefore I will miss the text errors.

Visual perception begins as soon the eye allows for the focus of light to enter the retina. Photoceptor cells absorb the light and create electronic signals knowns as rods and cones. Electronic signals are then taken to the optic nerve where it is transmitted to different parts of the brain where the patterns of activity are analyzed. Visual perception relies on top-down processing (Bertenthal & Rose, 2019). The cerebral cortex, also known as the cerebrum, is made up of millions of neurons, separated into the right and left hemisphere and into four different lobes, and each responsible for the different processes involved in sensory input; the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). During visual processing, it is the temporal and parietal lobes that are responsible for the sensory information processing (Bertenthal & Rose, 2019).


Attention is a mental activity in which concentration allows us to process portions of information using both sensory and memory (Farmer & Matlin, 2016). During the cognitive process of concentrating on select information perceivable information is ignored. Divided attention is when you are simultaneously trying to focus and successful understand two tasks at the same time with the same level of commitment and focus. Selective-attention, although similar to divide-attention, is attention to multiple tasks at one time with limited concentration of aspects of each at different times. Attention is vital to directing mental efforts toward thoughts and processing of environmental stimuli in conjunction with your immediate needs. The attentional system creates a filter for information that is either important or irrelevant. Therefore, without attention you would spend a great deal of time on mental effort for every thought surrounding environmental stimuli making it very difficult to complete any tasks and creating an overwhelming experience and circumstance (Farmer & Matlin, 2016).

Attention and concentration are executed by both the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, one part of the brain to ignite concentration and the other to distract concentration (Bertenthal & Rose, 2019). The stroop effect is a psychological test created as a demonstration of cognitive interference and delays in response time will occur due to unmatched stimuli. If you read the color purple, written in the color blue, your responsiveness to stating what you are reading and not the color you are seeing, will be directly affected. What this stroop effect suggests to psychologist in relation to attention, is that attention is more likely to be attracted to this type of trickery and delay the processing of the stimulus information. Attention bias is one of the most effective relatable cognitions in attention, meaning you chose different components of the stimuli to pay attention to and disregard others (Farmer & Matlin, 2016).


Human beings being able to choose what stimuli, be it internal or external, to focus their attention on is an important need to appropriately allocate time. The connection between perception and attention comes from one’s ability to determine what is important enough to focus attention toward, top-down processing allows us to make this connection. Although attention and perception are not directly linked, as paying attention and focusing on stimuli tends to truly reject perceivable information, the four lobes within the brain are all working together to visually process sensory information obtained through attention or perception and draw a conclusion from the stimuli.


Bennett I. Bertenthal, B. I., & Rose, J. L. (2019). Visual Perception. Retrieved August 20, 2019, from

Matlin, M.W. and Farmer, T.A. (2016).  Cognition (9th ed.) Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley.!/4/2/2/2/6@0:0!/4/2/2/2/6@0:0

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