10 Selective Attention

Experimental Psychology


  1. Dominique Lamy PhD1,
  2. Andrew B. Leber PhD2,
  3. Howard E. Egeth PhD3

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop204010

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Lamy, D., Leber, A. B. and Egeth, H. E. 2012. Selective Attention. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 4:IV:10.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Tel Aviv University, Department of Psychology, Tel Aviv, Israel

  2. 2

    University of New Hampshire, Department of Psychology, Durham, NH

  3. 3

    Johns Hopkins University , Department of Psychology, Baltimore, MD

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


We are endowed with a set of sensory organs that collect an astounding amount of information about our surrounding environment, but we are strikingly limited in how much of the information we can process simultaneously. Selective attention takes on the immensely complex challenge of choosing between which information will be granted access to further processing and to awareness, and which information will be ignored. How does the attentional system work? The present review summarizes more than a century of research on this question, focusing on (a) which levels of processing attention acts on, (b) the degree to which behavioral goals can influence selective attention, (c) how attention interacts with other cognitive processes, such as working memory, and (d) the relationship between attention and consciousness. Classic findings, contentious debates (some resolved and some still ongoing), and future directions are discussed.


  • selective attention;
  • early selection;
  • late selection;
  • attentional capture;
  • working memory;
  • conscious awareness