AFC Lab Talk Series

We host a virtual talk series on Thursdays at 1600 CET. Our aim: to support early-career researchers and underrepresented groups by providing a platform for their work and increasing networking opportunities.

If you'd like to give a talk, drop us a message and we'll get it organised.

For details on how to access the talks and view the event schedule, see the World Wide Neuro site.

21 Oct 2021
The diachronic account of attentional selectivity
Birbeck University of London
Many models of attention assume that attentional selection takes place at a specific moment in time which demarcates the critical transition from pre-attentive to attentive processing of sensory input. We argue that this intuitively appealing account is not only inaccurate, but has led to substantial conceptual confusion (to the point where some attention researchers offer to abandon the term ‘attention’ altogether). As an alternative, we offer a “diachronic” framework that describes attentional selectivity as a process that unfolds over time. Key to this view is the concept of attentional episodes, brief periods of intense attentional amplification of sensory representations that regulate access to working memory and response-related processes. We describe how attentional episodes are linked to earlier attentional mechanisms and to recurrent processing at the neural level. We present data showing that multiple sequential events can be involuntarily encoded in working memory when they appear during the same attentional episode, whether they are relevant or not. We also discuss the costs associated with processing multiple events within a single episode. Finally, we argue that breaking down the dichotomy between pre-attentive and attentive (as well as early vs. late selection) offers new solutions to old problems in attention research that have never been resolved. It can provide a unified and conceptually coherent account of the network of cognitive and neural processes that produce the goal-directed selectivity in perceptual processing that is commonly referred to as “attention”.