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Another response to environmental change is to evolve structures and behaviors that can be used to cope with different environments. The selection of these structures and behaviors as a result of environmental instability is known as variability selection. This hypothesis differs from those based on consistent environmental trends. Environmental change in an overall direction leads to specializations for those specific conditions. But if the environment becomes highly variable, specializations for particular environments would be less advantageous than structures and behaviors that enable coping with changing and unpredictable conditions. Variability selection refers to the benefits conferred by variations in behavior that help organisms survive change. To test the variability selection hypothesis, and to compare it with habitat-specific hypotheses, Potts examined the hominin fossil record and the records of environmental change during the time of human evolution.

Oneaspect of the skill is learning to discern when your attention is startingto wander.

Returningto the swimming pool analogy, if the water is very cold, you will not getused to it. Similarly, you cannot completely ignore a neighbor'smusic that is very loud. The price is that it takes more mental effortto attend to one's studies in a distracting environment. Even yourown music playing softly will make you feel tired studying sooner. Selective attention is an effortful response.The major challenge for the serious student is to keep selectiveattention focused on study materials rather than on day-dreams, personalproblems, or social activities. Although attention is a covert activity,our best hypothesis is that it obeys the same principles that have beendiscovered by research on overt behavior. One of these principlesis that of minimizing work (least effort):
Attending to a difficult lesson is hard work while attending to enticingdaydreams is easy.


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N2 - In previous work using the Stroop task to examine cognitive function in schizophrenia, we have suggested that reaction time (RT) facilitation and error interference should be more sensitive measures of cognitive function than RT interference. We examined this hypothesis in 36 DSM-IV schizophrenia and schizoaffective patients, who performed both the Stroop and the Speaking Span, a measure of verbal working memory. The results supported our hypotheses, demonstrating that RT facilitation and error interference were associated more strongly with working memory performance than RT interference. The robust correlations between these measures of selective attention and Speaking Span performance has implications for understanding the nature and selectivity of cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia. We present several different hypotheses that may explain this relationship, including: (1) a generalized deficit; (2) a common cognitive disturbance; and (3) a common neurobiological dysfunction.


Aquatic ape hypothesis - Wikipedia

The second idea, I feel is appropriate to end with, comes from work by William Johnston and his colleagues: e.g. Johnston & Heinz (1978); Johnston & Wilson (1980). This work appeared to demonstrate that there is no single bottleneck in the information processing system, but that there are a series of filters so that incoming stimuli can be processed both 'early' or 'late' depending on the situation: i.e. "the unattended message is processed according to task demands" (Underwood, 1993). This is, therefore, a theory of selective attention.

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The conceptual rift between Treisman and Deutsch & Deutsch is clearly demonstrated in two papers printed in 1967, in which they, themselves, appear to be talking different languages. In the first, "Selective attention: perception or response?", Treisman and Geffen seem to demonstrate by means of a dichotic listening task with shadowing and finger tapping instructions that "the main limit is perceptual". In the second paper, "Comments on 'Selective attention: perception or response?'", Deutsch and Deutsch take a completely different reading of this experiment opening with the statement "We cannot understand why Treisman and Geffen (1967) think their experiment argues against our theory". To add insult to injury, Deutsch and Deutsch go on to criticise Treisman's amendment of Broadbent's theory, by arguing that the reduced signal-to-noise ratio of unattended messages rather than reducing the load on the signal-recognition system would actually increase it, since signal detection theory says that the noisier the signal, the more analysis is required to extract it.