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© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. One of the central questions in the field of cognitive psychology (not to mention cognitive neuroscience) concerns the ability of humans to selectively attend to certain aspects of their environment, while at the same time ignoring, or inhibiting, the processing of other, less relevant stimuli. Attention can be directed spatially, temporally, or to a sensory modality, and attended stimuli tend to be processed more thoroughly and more rapidly than other potentially distracting ('unattended') stimuli. While researchers have traditionally tended to focus on the behavioral correlates of selective attention, some of the most exciting recent developments have come from cognitive neuroscience, using techniques such as electrophysiology, neurophysiology, PET, and fMRI. Taken together, the last decade has seen phenomenal growth in terms of our understanding of the mechanisms underlying (and the consequences of) attention at both the behavioral and neural levels.

Original publication





Book title

Encyclopedia of Human Behavior: Second Edition

Publication Date



211 - 217